NASHVILLE — Tennessee House Republicans chose to maintain the status quo this week as GOP Caucus members unanimously renominated House Speaker Cameron Sexton, reaffirmed William Lamberth as majority leader and retained Rep. Jeremy Faison as caucus chairman after his spirited election contest with Rep. Robin Smith of Hixson.
Faison, who lives in Cosby, stressed the GOP's success in the November elections during the canpaign, noting that Republicans retained their super majority by successfully defending all 73 seats in the chamber and that in "this climate it shows what we're doing is working." He said he wanted to continue being "a part of telling our story."
Smith, a former Tennessee Republican party chair, later said the contest "was more about two different visions for the operations in the direction of the caucus for the next couple of years.
"The Caucus spoke and has chosen that the caucus will be driven as a campaign focus rather than a member-centric focus," added Smith, who had pitched a more active role during annual sessions with a "year-round communications and messaging strategy."
Smith, a business and political consultant, called it "always an honor to serve, and I will be committed to the vision that our Caucus has chosen."
No vote tallies in the contest were released. Lamberth, a Portland attorney, had initially faced a challenge from Rep. William Farmer of Sevierville. But Farmer dropped his bid.
The first action Republicans took as they held their proceedings in the House chamber — their plan to meet in a Nashville hotel was scuttled by a new Metro Nashville COVID-19 order — was approving a motion by Rep. Chris Todd to hold future caucus meetings behind closed doors and exclude the public and reporters. It passed 56-11 on a secret ballot.
The Senate Republican Caucus, which last week renominated Speaker Randy McNally of Oak Ridge and retained other caucus leaders, holds its meetings in public. With Republicans holding 27 seats to Democrats' six — Democrats did pick up one seat in November — McNally, a retired Oak Ridge pharmacist, is seen as a virtual shoo-in for another two-year term.
Sexton, who is from Crossville, is expected to win the House floor vote for speaker when lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Jan. 12, with Democrats comprising only 26 members of the House.
Tuesday's caucus avoided the drama of recent House speaker elections that began after Republican Glen Casada of Franklin won the caucus' 2018 nomination and was elected speaker in 2019. His hard-driving style and successful push to pass a school voucher bill alienated a number of fellow Republicans, and when a series of racist and sexist texts with a top aide surfaced it led to Casada's downfall. Sexton was later elected speaker.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.