Pulled back in? Byrd feared to be running again

Rep. David Byrd takes a photo during at event in Lawrenceburg on June 4, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Guess who (maybe) wants back? State Rep. David Byrd, the Waynesboro Republican who has been accused of sexual misconduct when he was a girls’ high school basketball coach in the 1980s.

Byrd has never explicitly denied the allegations made by one of his former players who recorded a phone call with the lawmaker in which he apologized for unspecified past transgressions.

When outrage over the lawmaker’s continued tenure in the House appeared close to reaching a tipping point in a special legislative session in August, Byrd managed to blunt the momentum of ouster efforts by promising colleagues he wouldn’t seek another term in 2020.

Byrd then dodged reporters’ questions for months before finally confirming in January that he indeed planned not to run again.

But now, with just days remaining before the Thursday candidate filing deadline, word is emanating out from the shuttered statehouse that Byrd is looking to run for another two-year term. It’s a prospect that fills most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle with dread.

Byrd told The Tennessean in January he might change his mind if he gets “harassed and bullied” by activists.  But the steady drumbeat of protests and media coverage had largely dissipated when most assumed he would not return to the General Assembly.

Former Savannah City Manager Garry Welch announced earlier this month  he will seek the GOP nomination for the House District 71 seat currently held by Byrd. The district covers all of Hardin, Lewis, and Wayne counties and part of Lawrence County.

UPDATE: The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison reports Byrd has not yet picked up a petition to run again. It takes the signatures of 25 registered voters to qualify for the ballot.

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