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Patsy Hazlewood

NASHVILLE — Signal Mountain Rep. Patsy Hazlewood announced Tuesday she is running for the Tennessee House Republican Caucus chair post left open by departing chair Cameron Sexton, who is expected to be elected speaker next week.

Alluding to the recent GOP Caucus turmoil created by former Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, who resigned this month under pressure amid scandals that began over sexually explicit text messages, Hazlewood said "for this moment in time where we are and the things that we have gone through" she believes she can help provide a "smooth transition.

"We're going to focus on the things our voters have sent us to Nashville to do," she said.

Hazlewood joins three other Republicans, all men, in vying for the post. It's the No. 3 job in a House where Republicans hold a super majority of 73-26 over Democrats. Other candidates are Reps. Michael Curcio of Dickson, Jeremy Faison of Cosby and Jerry Sexton of Bean Station.

Hazlewood said she's not running due to "any disrespect or lack of confidence in any of the other candidates. I just think right now, for where we are, I would be the better face of this caucus. And I'm pretty passionate about it. And I'm ready to get to work."

The caucus chairman election is next week.

Hazlewood, currently House Finance vice chair, said she realizes "it is a little bit late in the game, but I've spent the last few days talking to our members and I do believe there's room and there's interest in having me in the role. And again, not to disparage in any way any of the other candidates, I think there's room for a fourth."

Citing her leadership in business and civic roles prior to first running for the House in 2014, Hazlewood noted "I'm just really thinking that with the experience in my work life, my business life and the five years I've spent in the legislature, I can bring some clarity and 'keep the band together,' if you will."

House Republicans have been at each other's throats for months over Casada-related controversies and other blowups.

Hazlewood is a retired top East Tennessee executive for BellSouth/AT&T, as well as a former regional director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

More recently, she helped organize and was a director of CapitalMark Bank and Trust prior to its sale.

The Republican caucus chair presides at meetings of members, works closely with party leaders including the speaker and governor when they are of the same party, and is heavily involved with party policy and business, including political fundraising.

"I'm accustomed to working with a lot of divergent opinions," Hazlewood said. "One of the things I want all to understand is we're all reflective of our districts. Under this leadership, everyone's going to be free to vote their districts."

In addition to other controversies, Casada ran into political problems for ramming through a controversial school voucher bill on behalf of Gov. Bill Lee. After initially deadlocking on a 49-49 vote, it eventually passed when a Knoxville Republican switched his no vote to yes.

Hazlewood said with 2020 elections around the corner, fundraising is "a top priority" and cited her own experience raising money in a variety of capacities including as chair of a multimillion-dollar United Way campaign, as well as chair of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, including working on its a five-year, $10 million fundraising effort.

"I've led [fundraising] campaigns from Junior Achievement to scouts," Hazlewood said, adding, "I'm comfortable asking for money, particularly when it's a cause I believe in. And I believe in the work I'm doing."

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

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