house republican caucus

Casada considering bid for vacant whip position

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) greets colleagues during a House Republican Caucus meeting in Nashville on Jan. 14, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A proposal to allow the House majority whip position to remain vacant for the rest of the year has been abandoned and the caucus now plans to hold a vote on Jan. 27. Speculation immediately turned to whether Rep. Glen Casada, who was driven from the House speakership last year, might jump in the race.

Casada (R-Franklin) tells The Tennessee Journal he hasn’t yet made up his mind. But it wouldn’t be the first time he’s made a leadership rebound. Casada was widely seen as the Republican favorite to be nominated speaker in 2010, not least because of the fierce opposition by then-ascendant tea party forces to Beth Harwell’s bid. But Casada ended up losing to Harwell (R-Nashville).

Instead of sending him into internal exile, Harwell decided to keep Casada in the fold by naming him chairman of the Health Committee. He received high marks in that role but was soon back to focusing on politics over policy after winning back his former post as House Republican Caucus chairman two years later. But Casada increasingly became a thorn in Harwell’s side in that role (and later as majority leader) by encouraging GOP colleagues to pursue hot-button bills as he began preparing for his own speaker’s bid.

The House majority whip’s main responsibility in election years is to oversee incumbents’ reelection efforts. The position is open because of the resignation of Rep. Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg) amid a caucus fight over anonymous Twitter posts. The post has previously been held by the likes of Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) and former Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin).

House GOP congratulates Grills on special election win

Rusty Grills has won the special election to serve out the term of resigned Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) in House District 77 in northwest Tennessee. And the House GOP is understandably thrilled about it.

Here is the celebratory release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee House Republican leadership including House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland), and House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) today congratulated Rusty Grills on his overwhelming victory during last night’s special election to fill the vacant District 77 seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

A current Dyer County Commissioner, Grills received 85 percent of the vote Thursday evening, overwhelmingly defeating democratic challenger Michael Smith and three independent candidates. He fills the vacancy created when former five-term State Rep. Bill Sanderson stepped down in early September.

“Congratulations to conservative Rusty Grills on his resounding victory during last night’s special election,” said Speaker Sexton. “Having campaigned with him, Rusty is committed to fighting for his constituents and upholding their conservative values. I know he will do a great job serving his community, West Tennessee, and our state. I look forward to working with him in Nashville, and I welcome him to our General Assembly.”

“It matters who governs, and the citizens of District 77 have overwhelmingly sent a true conservative to Nashville to serve them,” said Leader Lamberth. “We are excited to have Rep. Grills join our General Assembly, and I am confident Rusty will be a strong voice for his community.”

“I want to congratulate Rusty Grills on his victory and welcome the newest member of our House Republican Caucus to Nashville,” said Chairman Faison. “I have enjoyed getting to know Rusty over the last few weeks, and I know he will do a great job representing the men, women, and families of District 77.”

Rep. Grills will officially be sworn in when the new legislative year begins on Jan. 14, 2020.

Wake me up when September ends? Byrd still mum on re-election plans

Embattled Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Education Committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) tried to defuze efforts to oust him from the General Assembly during a special session in August by telling GOP colleagues behind closed doors that he wouldn’t run for re-election next year. When confronted by The Tennessean afterward, Byrd declined to confirm anything, saying only he would have a statement about his plans in September.

Well, September has come and gone. And Byrd, who has never publicly addressed sexual misconduct allegations dating back to when he was a girls high school basketball coach, still hasn’t made any public pronouncements. The lawmaker didn’t respond to several efforts by The Tennessean to reach him for comment.

Rep. Farmer ends law firm advertising campaign touting lawmaker role

State Rep. Andrew Farmer, a likely choice to become House judiciary chairman had an unrelated leadership vote turned out differently, has abandoned a billboard campaign for his law firm touting his role as “an actual lawmaker,” The Tennessean’Joel Ebert reports.

“Who better to argue the law than an actual lawmaker?” read the billboards advertising Farmer’s personal injury, criminal defense, and family law practice.

Farmer said he sought approval from the state Board of Professional Responsibility and ethics officials about the language used in the ads before putting them up. He then started getting calls from constituents raising concerns.

“The first phone call I got, they said, it might be some people are taking this the wrong way,” Farmer told the paper. He then decided to change the billboards.

Farmer, of Sevierville, is the chairman of the House criminal justice subcommittee. He was widely believed to be the frontrunner to succeed House Judiciary Chairman Michael Curico had the latter won his bid for House Republican Caucus chairman. But Curcio lost to Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), so nothing has changed within the Judiciary Committee.

Farmer said he doesn’t use his elected office to drum up business.

“When I talk to clients … I don’t say, ‘Hey hire me because I’m in the legislature,'” he said. “I think that’s over the line.”

Read the full story here.

Faison wins 4-way race for House GOP Caucus chair

Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) speaks to colleagues after being elected House Republican Caucus chair in Nashville on Aug. 22, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby has been elected chair of the House Republican Caucus. The position was vacated by the nomination of Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) as House speaker.

Faison defeated Rep. Michael Curcio of Dickson in the final ballot on a 40-31 vote. Rep. Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain was eliminated in the second round and Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station failed to clear the first round.

Faison is known for his bombastic persona and his vocal support for legalizing medical marijuana. He has shown an uncanny ability to count votes within the caucus. His prediction for his caucus chair victory was within one vote, and he was almost as close in his count going into the caucus meeting to declare lost confidence in former Speaker Glen Casada in May.

Can Curcio counter curse of ‘last supper’ photo?

House Judiciary Chairman Michael Curcio of Dickson is a leading contender for the vacant No. 3 Republican leadership position in the chamber. But if he wins it would be against a trend of a house cleaning among erstwhile allies of former Speaker Glen Casada.

A photo of Casada’s lieutenants celebrating in a Nashville steakhouse after the Franklin Republican’s nomination as speaker last November has become a symbol of the hubris of the moment. Four of those pictured no longer hold their positions — most notably Casada himself, who became the first Tennessee House speaker in 126 years not to serve out his full term. Another, Rep. Matthew Hill of Jonesborough, came in third in the vote to succeed him (his brother and childhood friend, Reps. Timothy Hill and Micah Van Huss, are also pictured).

Former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren, whose text message exchanges with the speaker kicked the lid off the scandal that ultimately toppled Casada, is seated at the head of the table. Former aides Shawn Hatmaker (the reputed “hall monitor”) and Michael Lotfi (whose no-show job rankled members) are also pictured.

And on the bottom right sits Curcio, who supporters of Rep. Curtis Johnson’s rival bid for speaker believed was in his camp until they saw this photo after the election. Casada later named Curcio chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Curcio was a vocal supporter of the rule changes pushed through by the new speaker aimed at limiting dissent within the chamber.

Rep. Michael Curio (R-Dickson) checks his phone during a House Republican Caucus meeting in Nashville on July 24, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Curcio is a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss), Americans for Prosperity, and the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington.

The other candidates for caucus chair are Reps. Jeremy Faison of Cosby,  Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain, and Jerry Sexton of Bean Station. The caucus election is scheduled for Thursday.

Hazlewood joins race for House GOP Caucus chair

Hazlewood

Rep. Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain is joining the race for House Republican Caucus chair, reports Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The position is opening because of the nomination of Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) to become the House speaker next week.

Hazlewood is a late entry into the race. She joins Reps. Michael Curcio of Dickson, Jeremy Faison of Cosby, and Jerry Sexton of Bean Station in the contest for the No. 3 caucus leadership position.

Hazlewood, who served as vice chair of the powerful House Finance Committee this session, told Sher she realizes “it is a little bit late in the game” to join the fray.

“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,” she said.

Hazlewood is a retired AT&T executive and a onetime regional director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

The caucus chair is responsible for messaging and political functions of the caucus. Fundraising and campaign work are a major focus of the job. The caucus press secretary is also housed within the office.

“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.”

 

Read Carter’s letter to House chairs, vice-chairs

Rep Mike Carter is sworn in to the 111th General Assembly in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here is the full text of a letter Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) has written to the chairs and vice chairs in his pursuit of the House speakership:

Dear Chairman:

I am sending this letter to each Chairperson and Vice Chairperson to state in writing that you will retain your current positions if I am elected Speaker. Our 2020 election cycle including President Trump will motivate our opponents and we must be careful to do nothing to give an issue in your race.

We will restore integrity, trust and confidence in the House by promoting the excellent work that each of you perform in your roll as a House leader. Your interest and desires to serve in a given area will be given great weight towards any additional assignments that will be made. Additionally, we will revert back to the long established House rules that vests the power in the members, not the Speaker.

My request to serve you as Speaker is not about me, it’ s about you. I promise to use the Speaker’s office to promote each of you as the “Elected Official” in your district. This will begin with fair treatment to all and retribution to none. You will be asked to vote your conscience and your district not what others tell you to do for their benefit, not yours. Threats and intimidation will not be tolerated. Every member earned the trust and the vote of their district and represents approximately 67,000 people. Your obligations belong to those constituents not the Speaker. To that end I pledge to make myself available at your request for public meetings to promote your leadership and to raise essential funds for your re-election efforts.

I am forming a Speaker’s PAC to be professionally managed and maintained to raise funds for your re-­election efforts. I pledge that none of the funds raised to will go to me or my campaign. The Speaker’s PAC will support members and approved candidates only.

Stability is a key factor in reestablishing the rightful position of the House of Representatives in its powerful constitutional role. We will reinstate long held rules in the House that promote the House as a whole and not the Speaker. With budget savings and continuing with the theme “you are the leader of your district,” we will place flat screens outside each office so you may develop a slide show to promote your district, introduce yourself to observers and constituents, and state your accomplishments for your district. This is but one of many ideas to promote you and your district.

Lets start now and work tirelessly so that at your retirement your constituents will say that their community, district, and state of Tennessee was improved since you served as their state representative.

I hope to meet with each of you soon to gain your advice and answer any questions you may have.

Respectfully submitted,
/signed/
Mike Carter
District 29

 

House GOP to nominate new speaker July 24

Republican members vote during a House GOP caucus meeting in Nashville on Nov. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Let the countdown begin. The House Republican Caucus plans to meet on July 24 to nominate a new speaker to succeed Rep. Glen Casada, who is stepping down following a loss-of-confidence vote.

(This post has been updated with the morning of July 24 being the scheduled date, not the afternoon of the 23rd, as earlier reported.)

The move comes as lawmakers await word from Gov. Bill Lee about the timing of a special session to hold a formal vote on replacing the speaker. The governor has said he plans to summon lawmakers back to Nashville in mid to late August, but had not settled on a specific date as of Tuesday, according to The Tennessean.

The declared Republican candidates for speaker so far include Reps. Mike Carter of Ooltewah, Cutis Johnson of Clarksville, Matthew Hill of Jonesborough, and Jay Reedy of Erin. House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton of Crossville has recused himself from scheduling and logistics decisions surrounding the speaker vote because he is strongly considering a bid of his own. Others mulling bids include Reps. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station and Ryan Williams of Cookeville.

 

Rep. Jay Reedy announces bid for speaker

Rep. Jay Reedy is the latest candidate for succeed Glen Casada as House speaker. In a letter to colleagues, the Erin Republican speaks out against “self indulgence and moral corruption.”

“We turn our backs on our country and family when we come to Capitol Hill and forget why we are elected,” he writes.

Reedy joins Reps. Mike Carter of Ooltewah, Matthew Hill of Jonesborough, and Curtis Johnson of Clarksville as announced candidates for speaker. Others considering bids include Reps. Cameron Sexton of Crossville, Ryan Williams of Cookeville, and Jerry Sexton of Bean Station.

Reedy says he won’t make phone calls or harass member in the campaign for speaker. But he says he looks forward to discussing his bid with colleagues.

Here’s Reedy’s full letter:

Dear Colleagues,

The Eyes of Tennessee are upon us!

Things are forgotten from one generation to the next, which should not be.

It seems that we have forgotten God, Country, and Family. We hold to self-indulgence and moral corruption that goes against Gods Laws. We turn our backs on our country and family when we come to Capitol Hill and forget why we are elected.

The reason that I fought to be elected to HD 74 was to continue my service to God and Country, as I had as an enlisted U.S. Army Soldier and later as a U.S. Army Reserve Officer.

Respect and responsibility require much trust! The trust that we share in the Honorable Tennessee House of Representatives is a must, among the members, for the future of ALL Tennesseans.

Seven Basic Values that I was taught in the Army:

Loyalty – Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other soldiers.

Duty – Fulfill your obligations.

Respect – Treat people as they should be treated.

Selfless Service – Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.

Honor – Live up to all the Army values.

Integrity – Do what’s right, legally and morally.

Personal Courage – Face fear, danger, or adversity (physical or moral).

(I have, will, and will take these values to my end.)

I have the ambition, drive, tenacity, self-confidence, and psychological openness, to continue to be the leader for God, Country, and Family!

The future of all Tennesseans matter!

After much prayers, thoughts, and conversations, I feel obligated to run for the upcoming open- position of Speaker of the House for the remainder of the 111th General Assembly.

I would be honored to have your vote of confidence to serve as your next speaker!

Respectfully,

Jay Reedy

PS: I will not be making phone calls and harassing you for your vote. I look forward in speaking/meeting with you to discuss the future goals of the House of Representatives.