Cruz taps Kookogey to chair his TN presidential campaign

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has named anti-Shariah activist Kevin Kookogey as his state chairman for Tennessee.

Kookogey, a former chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party, was unsuccessful in his bid to coalesce tea party support for a primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander last year.

Kookogey in 2013 decided against mounting that long-planned campaign after former state Rep. Joe Carr decided to get in the race. Carr ended up losing to Alexander by fewer than 10 percentage points.

As head of the Williamson County GOP, Kookogey presided over the 2012 passage of a resolution criticizing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam over the role of a Muslim staffer and a council that has advised two state departments on Islamic affairs.

According to that resolution, the governor had extended preferential political status to Shariah “adherents in Tennessee, thereby aiding and abetting the advancement of an ideology and doctrine which is wholly incompatible with the Constitution of the United States and the Tennessee Constitution.”

The Haslam administration at the time denied those allegations and similar ones mounted by other county Republican Party resolutions.

“There is no effort by the Haslam administration, the State of Tennessee, or any agency or department of the State to promote or advance Shariah law or Shariah compliant finance,” the governor’s then-deputy, Claude Ramsey, wrote in the letter to GOP leaders around the state.

Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, in a release praised Kookogey for his “experience and knowledge of both the landscape in Tennessee and the issues that matter to Tennesseans,” and noted his leadership role on issues like “American sovereignty, defense, and religious liberty.”

Kookogey did not return a message seeking comment.