Rep. Curtis Johnson announces bid for Tennessee House speaker, pledges to 'restore credibility, trustworthiness'

Republican Reps. Mike Carter, of Chattanooga, left, and Curtis Johnson, of Clarksville, confer during a House floor debate, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in Nashville.
Republican Reps. Mike Carter, of Chattanooga, left, and Curtis Johnson, of Clarksville, confer during a House floor debate, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in Nashville.

NASHVILLE - State Rep. Curtis Johnson is telling fellow Republicans in a letter that he is running to replace Glen Casada as Tennessee's House speaker.

Casada has announced he plans to resign Aug. 2 following a scandal over explicit sexual texts and other issues.

Casada controversies

Calling it a "crucial time for the House as well as Republicans in general," Johnson, the former House speaker pro tempore who lost the speaker nomination to Casada in a December 2018 GOP Caucus vote, said "we must act quickly and decisively to restore credibility and trustworthiness to our body.

"When I ran for Speaker last November, I pledged to not play political games," the veteran lawmaker reminded colleagues. "That still holds true today. I believe that I am the best candidate to do this."

He wrote that serving six years as speaker pro tem has given him a "unique opportunity to work with Leadership in the House as well as working with the Senate and the governor's office."

Johnson also said that from his own experience "I know that the House can be operated efficiently and effectively, while still respecting a member's right to vote the wishes and conscience of their district.

"We need to be one caucus with the freedom to hear 73 voices."

Johnson also said "I know that I can bring trust and dignity back to the Speaker's Office," also pledging to "work with our members so that Tennessee can prosper and grow."

Johnson had been expected to join the list of Republicans seeking the post. Rep. Mike Carter of Ooltewah has formally announced, with Deputy Speaker Matthew Hill of Jonesborough saying he is running and current Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn of Knoxville, GOP Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton and Rep. Robin Smith of Hixson considering throwing their names into the hat.

The revelations of texts showing Casada jokingly or approvingly responding to then-top aide Cade Cothren's boasts about his sexual conquests led to a crisis for the new speaker who only assumed his role in January.

Written prior to Casada's becoming speaker, one of the texts from Cothren was an explicit racist reference to a black-majority West Tennessee House district. Casada, who didn't respond to it, said he never saw that or a number of other texts, including one in which Cothren bragged about snorting cocaine in a legislative office.

Other issues quickly piled up for the 59-year-old Casada, with a number of Republicans already feeling out on a political limb after the speaker pressed them hard to support Republican Gov. Bill Lee's controversial school voucher proposal.

On May 20, the GOP Caucus met and voted 45-24 to say they no longer had confidence in Casada. After the speaker said he would work to regain their confidence, Lee weighed in to say he should go and he would call lawmakers into special session to deal with the speaker.

After taking a trip to Europe, Casada returned and said this week he would resign Aug. 2, igniting yet another furor, with critics expecting him to leave in June. On Wednesday, after Casada attacked Carter, the Ooltewah lawmaker charged Casada was "intent on using his position and his substantial PAC funding to punish those who dared to challenge him and to use his position to pick his successor so that he will, in effect, be the shadow Speaker."

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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