NASHVILLE - State Reps. Mike Carter, of Ooltewah, and Patsy Hazlewood, of Signal Mountain, say they were among the 45 Tennessee House Republican Caucus members who voted earlier this week for a resolution stating members had "lost confidence" in GOP Speaker Glen Casada's ability to lead in the wake of a lewd text scandal and other controversies that enveloped the Williamson County lawmaker.
Fellow Republican Reps. Robin Smith, of Hixson, and Esther Helton, of East Ridge, aren't saying how they voted.
However, Smith, who noted she favored a censure motion because it was in the caucus' bylaws and the "no-confidence" approach wasn't, said, "I stand with the caucus vote." Helton said Casada later "made the right decision" when he announced he would resign as speaker.
Caucus members voted 45-24 Monday on the motion that Casada, a former caucus chairman and majority leader, had fought.
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After the vote, Casada initially said he would work over the coming months to "regain" the caucus' confidence. But the Tennessee Republican Party and then Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Monday night called for him to resign. The speaker said Tuesday he would. Casada noted he would return June 3 after a previously planned vacation and then would work with leaders to determine the best date for him to step down.
In an interview earlier this week, Carter, who on Wednesday told GOP Caucus members in a letter that he was running to replace Casada, said, "I voted no confidence" on the motion. "My position has not changed from my letter."
That was a reference to Carter's call last week for Casada to resign, which came in a letter to fellow Republicans in which he blasted Casada for what he perceived as the speaker's effort to "rig and predetermine" a proposed ethics advisory opinion focusing on Casada's dealings with top former aide Cade Cothren.
Casada denied any hand in the draft and attacked Carter.
Carter outlined his views on what happened in the meeting.
Hazlewood, who early on had called on Casada to step down, said she saw no need to speak. "I think you know, I made my position perfectly clear. I think I've made the reasons for that position clear."
Smith, a past Tennessee Republican Party head and now a political and business consultant who has worked in the past with the GOP Caucus and Casada, said, "I'm not going to betray confidences on who voted how or what's happening, because I take that trust very seriously. I'm a little tired of seeing things played out in the media, but I stand with my caucus and know that it was a tough vote."
She confirmed she had addressed the caucus - Carter did the same - and recalled telling Casada in front of members that "you know exactly what I've said to you in private, exactly how disgusted I am at these texts and other behavior and you know what you and I have said in private."
But Smith said she also told colleagues "everyone in this room is also very sick of the position that we're all put in of having to deal with these problems of three years ago in a time where we have done a lot of great things on behalf of Tennesseans."
Censure, Smith said, "is a formal vote and it is something that can transcend partisan caucus organizations. My hope was we would have censured him and that we would have challenged our other partisans in the [Democratic] caucus to censure members that also engage in unbecoming behavior."
The censure vote would have required two thirds approval. The no confidence vote required a majority.
Helton said in a statement she believes Casada "made the right decision for what is in the best interest of our Party and the Republican House Caucus. In doing so, it allows us to move forward with electing a new leader so we can focus on the people's business and pass important legislation based on our shared conservative values and principles."
She noted that she has stated publicly that she strongly condemns "this type of behavior and what has been brought to light so far. I believe we can and should do better, and it starts with passing needed reforms that will improve the professional and ethical standards for our elected body and address the environment that has enabled this kind of behavior to happen."
House Republicans, Helton said, "have a lot of work to do to regain the trust of all Tennesseans. I agree, and I look forward to representing District 30 to ensure this happens and doing the important work that will position our state for continued prosperity."
Asked how she had voted on the no-confidence resolution, Helton replied in an email that "it was decided by the caucus that this was to be a private vote and out of respect to my colleagues I will honor that request."
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