Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada announces his resignation

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / 
State Rep. and Speaker of the Tennessee House Glen Casada speaks during the Hamilton County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Westin Hotel on Friday, April 26, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / State Rep. and Speaker of the Tennessee House Glen Casada speaks during the Hamilton County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Westin Hotel on Friday, April 26, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee Republican Glen Casada said Tuesday he will resign his post as House speaker following a no-confidence resolution adopted Monday by fellow GOP lawmakers and previous calls from Republican Gov. Bill Lee and others that he step down.

But first, the speaker intends to go on a previously planned vacation in Europe.

"When I return to town on June 3, I will meet with Caucus leadership to determine the best date for me to resign as Speaker so that I can help facilitate a smooth transition," reads a statement from Casada.

After announcing Monday night he would call lawmakers into special session if Casada didn't step down as speaker, Lee said Tuesday that Casada had "made the right decision."

The governor also said, "I look forward to working with the legislature to get back to conducting the people's business and focusing on the issues that matter most to our state."

But later in the day, Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, announced he is circulating a petition to obtain 66 signatures to call lawmakers into special session to oust Casada as speaker and also to expel him as a representative.

The speaker's announcement came a day after first seeking to downplay the Republican Caucus' 45-24 secret ballot vote through which members said they no longer had confidence in Casada, who was elected speaker back in January.

After the vote, Casada said he was "disappointed." But he also said he would "work the next few months to regain the confidence of my colleagues so we can continue to build on the historic conservative accomplishments of this legislative session."

But shortly thereafter, Lee issued his call on Casada to resign as speaker, saying he would bring legislators into a special session to remove him if he didn't.

GOP Caucus members' meeting came amid an uproar over leaked text messages from 2016, including three from then-aide Cade Cothren in which Cothren boasted in explicitly sexual texts about his exploits and Casada responded approvingly or jokingly.

There was a racist text to which Casada never responded. The speaker initially denounced the sex texts, reported by The Tennessean, as fake, then later acknowledged he had responded to two of them, dismissing it as "locker room talk."

After assuring colleagues in a conference call there were no more sex texts, the first two of which were reported by The Tennessean, WTVF-TV in Nashville posted yet a third in which he did respond.

Casada controversies

Cothren - who had worked as a spokesman for Casada when the future speaker was GOP Caucus chairman and then majority leader became Casada's chief of staff in January - resigned after The Tennessean disclosed a text in which he had bragged about using cocaine in a legislative building.

Last week, Carter, a member of the Ethics Committee that Casada asked to render an advisory opinion on his dealing with Cothren, denounced a proposed draft of the opinion, saying it exonerated the speaker entirely and he strongly suggested Casada had sought to "rig and predetermine" the process.

Yet another scandal involved news reports of alleged tampering with evidence by Cothren in a case of a young black activist. Cothren later said he was wrong on his assumptions about the date of an email sent by the activist, who had been placed under a court order to not contact Casada or his office. It's under investigation by a special prosecutor. The Black Caucus has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

Other controversies include a Tennessean report that members felt two political operatives hired as staffers were spying on them.

On Tuesday, Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Senate speaker, who early on became one of the first public officials to call on Casada to step down, said Casada's "announcing his intent to resign is the right decision for the legislature, the Republican Party and the state. I commend him for it. Now we move forward."

McNally also said he is also "committed to working with leadership in the House to help restore the trust that has been lost in any way I can."

Meanwhile, Casada was on the move Tuesday, literally, as a WSMV-TV reporter sought to catch up with the Williamson County lawmaker outside his home.

Footage showed the reporter talking to a man outside the front door of a home when the speaker is seen suddenly sprinting across the street to the passenger side of his state-provided SUV as the reporter ran to catch up, shouting questions, before the vehicle abruptly sped off.

The Tennessee Journal reported last week that removing a House speaker isn't completely without precedent. In 1893, the House passed a resolution urging Democrat Ralph Davis of Memphis to step down as speaker after he was disbarred for swindling a client.

After he refused, lawmakers approved a second resolution to remove him as speaker. It passed 72-9, despite protests from Davis' supporters that there were no provisions in House rules for the maneuver.

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

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