Monthly Archives: June 2019

Several House Republicans want earlier Casada exit

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) speaks to reporters in the House chamber in Nashville on April 17, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Several House Republicans are calling for embattled House Speaker Glen Casada to step aside sooner than his planned Aug. 2 exit date.

“I definitely think he needs to go sooner. He can resign. We have a speaker pro tem who can step in until we could have an election at whatever time is appropriate,” Rep. Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain) told Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) is the speaker pro tem.

“I definitely think (Casada) doesn’t have the confidence of the legislature, that’s clear,” Hazlewood added. “I think he doesn’t have the confidence of the governor and other people across the state.”

Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) said he’s worried about extending Casada’s power to make key appointments to boards and commissions, including the panel tasked with overseeing the state’s new online sports gaming law.

“If he’d given me some reason, that might have helped me to try and understand it,” said Carter, a candidate to succeed Casada. “But now with all these appointments and things coming, I’m just concerned about it. The bleeding continues.”

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Casada retains appointment power until resignation

Among the panels up for new appointments is the nine-member Lottery Corporation Sports Wagering Advisory Council, which was created under a law passed this session and allowed to go into force without Gov. Bill Lee’s signature. The governor and the House and Senate speakers each get three appointments to the panel.

Among the potential Republican candidate to succeed Casada, three voted for sports gambling bill (Reps. Curtis Johnson, Cameron Sexton, and Robin Smith), while four voted against (Reps. Mike Carter, Bill Dunn, Matthew Hill, and Jerry Sexton.)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally also voted against the sports gambling bill.

Another panel is the reconstituted 16-member Board of Judicial Conduct. Casada gets four appointments on the panel, one of whom must be an an attorney and three others who cannot be an attorney or a current or former judge.

“I find it just shocking that the disgraced House speaker gets to name anybody to a sports gambling commission and a judicial oversight panel,” said former Knoxville mayor Victor Ashe, a former Republican state senator and onetime U.S. ambassador to Poland.  “I would think the Republican majority would want to prevent that from happening.”

Scott Gilmer, who took over as chief of staff to the speaker following the resignation of Cade Cothren as Casada’s chief aide, told the paper the appointments need to made soon.

“Members of the gaming commission need to undergo a background check and that would take some work there,” he said.

Other boards, commissions, and councils with upcoming vacancies include the TennCare Pharmacy Advisory Committee, Advisory Council on State Procurement, the State Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission, the Commission on Aging and Disability, and Energy Efficient Schools Council. The House speaker has the power to fill two positions on each panel.

“My guess is I don’t think the speaker will fill most of these,” Gilmer said. “Probably most of these we’ll leave to the next person. But if there’s some more pressing ones like the Board of Judicial Conduct and the gaming commission, I think he could appoint those. But we haven’t yet.”

Carter raises concerns about Casada becoming ‘shadow speaker’

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) speaks to Republican colleagues in Nashville on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) is raising concerns that Glen Casada is trying to influence the outcome of the race to succeed him so he can act as the “shadow speaker” even after he’s no longer in charge of the chamber.

According to a report from Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Casada targeted Carter in an email to Republican colleagues for “using his position on the House Ethics Committee as a platform to run for Speaker, much in the same way he wrongfully accused me of trying to predetermine an outcome from the committee to remain as speaker.”

Carter issued a statement to the paper saying the email from Casada confirmed his concerns that the speaker’s efforts to remain in power until Aug. 2 “would be destructive” to the House.

Casada “is 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,” Carter said in the statement.

Casada’s email attacking Carter drew a rebuke from Rep. David Hawk.

“So, is this what our Republican House Caucus can expect from you over the next two months, as you intend to hang on as speaker?!” Hawk wrote to colleagues.

“Do you and your remaining supporters in the House continually intend to attack those of us who have rightfully called for your resignation? You, trying to assign blame to others for your downfall is wrong on multiple levels. Stop!”

Tea party figure Phillips disbarred again

Attorney Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, has been disbarred again, WSMV-TV reports.

“Mr. Phillips consented to disbarment because he could not successfully defend himself on charges alleged in forty-one pending disciplinary complaints,” according to the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility.

Phillips was previously disbarred last year after clients alleged his withheld unreasonable fees for work related to timeshare litigation.

Phillips organized the 2010 National Tea Party Convention in Nashville. He has been a regular contributor to the conservative Tennessee Star website.

Casada to step down as speaker Aug. 2, requests successor vote be held same day

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin), right, meets with colleagues on the Senate floor on May 1, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Glen Casada plans to step down as House speaker on Aug 2. He is asking Gov. Bill Lee to call a  special session to elect a new leader of the chamber that same day.

Casada began holding talks about the timetable for his resignation following his return from a European vacation on Monday. The House Republican Caucus had voted 45-24 last month to approve a resolution declaring lost confidence in the speaker over a text message scandal and his heavy-handed leadership style.

Here’s the text of Casada’s letter to colleagues on Tuesday:

June 4th, 2019

House Members of the 111th General Assembly:

I resign from my position as Speaker of the House of Representatives, effective Friday, August 2nd at 8:00 am. I also request that Governor Bill Lee call the General Assembly into a special session for legislative business on that day. During the special session, the House may take up the procedural matter of electing a new Speaker to lead the chamber.

/signed/

Glen Casada

State Representative, District 63

State Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini criticized the delay in Casada’s planned resignation:

Every day that Glen Casada is in office is a slap in the face to to women, communities of color, and all Tennesseans who expect real work and not lines of coke to be done at the state capitol. Democrats have been sounding the alarm since Casada’s corruption began, and we’ll continue to fight to restore accountability and decency to the Tennessee legislature.

Freshman Smith sees ‘opportunity’ to succeed Casada

Freshman Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) attends a House floor session in Nashville on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Freshman Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) sees an “opportunity” to succeed House Speaker Glen Casada, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

Casada (R-Franklin) announced plans to resign following a 45-24 vote by the House Republican Caucus to approve a resolution declaring lost confidence in the speaker over a text message scandal and his heavy-handed leadership style. Smith had argued against the resolution during the closed-door caucus meeting.

Smith cited her strong relationship with her 19 fellow freshman in the 73-member caucus.

“We’re the ones bringing ethics reform to the table when others have not,” Smith told the paper. “I think there’s an opportunity for us to stick together as a class. But I’m not going to make that presumption, I’m not going to speak on their behalf.”

“I’m not going to take anyone’s vote for granted regardless of their tenure,” she said.

Smith is a former state Republican Party chairwoman, who took a hard line in stripping former Speaker Kent Williams of Elizabethton of his ability to seek re-election as a Republican because he had been elected to lead the chamber by Democrats.

Smith worked as a campaign consultant for the House GOP during the 2018 campaign cycle, earning $37,000 for her efforts. She lost out her effort to land the same role in 2016 to Chip Saltsman, another former state GOP chairman, who is now supporting Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) for speaker.

Saltsman also managed U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s successful GOP primary campaign against Smith in 2010.

Reps. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) are the only formally declared candidates so far, but several others are actively seeking support for bids.

Devaney, Gehrke to head up Sethi’s campaign team

The timing of physician Manny Sethi’s announcement that he plans to run for the Republican nomination to succeed U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) caught many political observers off guard because most had been waiting to hear what former Gov. Bill Haslam planned to do on the race.

But Sethi and his team apparently ran out of patience and decided to pull the trigger, using “outsider” themes echoing those made by similarly little-known Bill Lee when the latter was making surprise march toward the governor’s office last year.

So it may come as little surprise that a Lee consultant, Jordan Gehrke, is reprising that role for the Sethi campaign. Chris Devaney, a former state Republican Party chairman who served as Lee’s campaign manager, has agreed to run the day-to-day operations of the Sethi campaign. Devaney had been working as a senior adviser to the Lee administration.

Fred Davis, who produced Lee’s TV ads during the governor’s race, has been in talks with the Sethi camp, but is believed to be awaiting word about Haslam’s intentions before taking the plunge. Davis did the advertising for Haslam’s 2010 governor’s bid.

Gehrke and Blake Harris were the general consultants for Lee’s gubernatorial bid. Harris now serves as the governor’s chief of staff.

Sethi enters Republican race to succeed Alexander

Surgeon Manny Sethi is joining the Republican race to succeed retiring U.S. Sen  Lamar Alexander next year. His announcement comes before other potential candidates like former Gov. Bill Haslam, Ambassador Bill Hagerty, or U.S. Rep Mark Green have announced whether they will run.

Here’s Sethi’s announcement release:

Nashville — Today, Dr. Manny Sethi, a Nashville trauma surgeon, launched his campaign for United States Senate.

“Tennesseans want a conservative outsider who will take on the Establishment, support President Trump, fight illegal immigration and work to repeal ObamaCare,” said Sethi. “That’s why I’m running for Senate.”

Dr. Sethi, 41, is the first candidate to enter the race.  A first generation son of Indian immigrants, Sethi released a video this morning telling the story of his family coming to America.

“My parents taught me to be grateful I was born in America because everything our family has was given to us by this country. I am a product of the American dream. I want to make sure that dream is available to our children and grandchildren,” said Sethi.

Sethi, and his wife, Maya, have been together since they were 16. They were married in 2005 and have two young children.

The Republican Primary is August.