Morgan Ortagus, Pompeo's former 'face to the world', runs for Congress

'I stand with Ukraine. I think that the whole world is incredibly proud of what the Ukrainian people are doing to fight for their country.'

 U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus attends a press briefing by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS)
U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus attends a press briefing by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS)

WASHINGTON – With the Midterm elections just over the horizon and with redistricting underway, more and more candidates are joining the race, hoping to win a seat in Congress in November.

Morgan Ortagus, a former State Department spokesperson under Mike Pompeo who is Jewish, announced a congressional bid earlier this month for the Republican primaries of the newly drawn fifth congressional seat in Tennessee. The incumbent Representative, Democrat Jim Cooper, announced his retirement after more than 32 years in Congress as the current district will be dismantled.

“I’m running because under President Biden and Nancy Pelosi, you have seen both failed domestic and foreign policy. I think it’s incredibly concerning,” Ortagus said. “You see a border that he has absolutely no control of. It’s a major national security issue. You see inflation over 7.5%. You see people like my neighbors, people who live in the Fifth Congressional District in Tennessee, who are making really hard choices about getting a full tank of gas or getting a full cart of groceries. It shouldn’t be that way in America.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree in political science in Florida, Ortagus took part in the political campaigns of Republican candidates in her southern home state.

Later, during the Bush administration, she served in the United States Agency for International Development and was posted to Baghdad. She served as a spokesperson for the USAID in 2017, and later worked as an intelligence analyst for the Treasury Department.

During her posting in Baghdad she started exploring Judaism, although she was not a Jew at the time.

“I just had a sense of it really touching me in a way that religion had not in a very, very long time,” Ortagus told Jewish Insider in an interview earlier this year. She later converted. 
She told the publication that one religious service she attended was held in a US Army trailer, and that attendees later ate a “kosher-ish” meal at the chow hall. “I don’t think we ever had any challah, but we definitely had some rolls,” she told JI.
 Mike Pompeo speaks at the Psagot Winery (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF) Mike Pompeo speaks at the Psagot Winery (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

“We are going to be a part of the red wave in November that’s going to take back the House and fire Nancy Pelosi,” she said. “I’m incredibly excited to be a part of it.”

Asked what issues she would like to tackle if elected, Ortagus said the number-one issue is the southern border.

“I traveled around the world. I think I went to over 50 countries with Mike Pompeo and president Trump. Our southern border looks like something that you would see in a failed state. There’s no excuse for this.”

Asked about the war in Ukraine, she said, “It’s certainly a David and Goliath situation when you look at both countries’ military capabilities. I stand with Ukraine. I think that the whole world is incredibly proud of what the Ukrainian people are doing to fight for their country.

“Unfortunately, President Biden and his team have not led. They have been leading from behind, just as they did in the Obama administration the last time that Russia invaded Ukraine,” she said. “And that is unfortunate. When you look at the US sanctions, a lot of it has been half measures. A lot of it has given the ability for the Russians to get around some of the sanctions if they need to.”

Earlier this month, Ortagus was endorsed by Trump.

“President Trump endorsed me because I’ve always stood up for him,” she said. That’s why he’s standing up for me. He knows that I know how to fight.”