Cameron Sexton

Cothren says records would show he consulted for Sexton on speaker’s bid in 2019

Former House Speaker Glen Casada. (Erik Schelzig/Tennessee Journal)

Cade Cothren, a former top aide to then-House Speaker Glen Casada, claims in a motion filed in federal court Thursday evening that he was a close confidant to current Speaker Cameron Sexton when the chamber’s top leadership position opened up. Cothren also says Sexton was actively trying to help Cothren get a job as a lobbyist. The motion says Sexton’s behavior contrasts with is statements to federal prosecutors that he didn’t want anything to do with Cothren after the latter was forced out of his House job following a text messaging scandal and revelations he took drugs in his legislative office.

Cothren and Casada are facing federal public corruption charges related to the operation of a mysterious political called Phoenix Solutions. The trial is scheduled for Oct. 3.

Here’s an excerpt from the filing seeking an order for Verizon to turn over Sexton’s phone records:

After his resignation, Mr. Cothren remained heavily engaged with Speaker Sexton, who relied on Mr. Cothren’s expertise, especially during the 2019 special session race for the next Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives after former Speaker Glen Casada’s resignation.

Mr. Cothren was one of then-Representative Sexton’s most consistent confidants during his race for Speaker. The requested telephone and messaging records should show hundreds of telephone calls and corresponding messages between Mr. Cothren and Speaker Sexton during that critical time period and beyond.

The records from [encrypted messaging service] Confide, specifically, will show that Speaker Sexton was also regularly communicating with Mr. Cothren and other state employees on the encrypted messaging application during the relevant time period in the Indictment.

Additionally, the requested records will show that Speaker Sexton was actively reaching out to state officials, state employees, as well as third-parties in an attempt to secure Mr. Cothren a job as a lobbyist as well as other opportunities. These communications are integral to Mr. Cothren’s defense in this matter because the government’s case appears to rely—heavily—on its theory that Mr. Cothren’s reputation was so tarnished after his resignation that Speaker Sexton was adamantly opposed to associating or working with him at all, even on administrative matters.

New TNJ edition alert: Intimidation allegations in public corruption case, parents fret about retention law

Cade Cothren, speaking on phone, attends a meeting with lawmakers and fellow staffers on the balcony outside the House chamber on April 29, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is here (a day early because of the approaching holiday weekend). Here is what’s in it:

— Prosecutors allege threats, intimidation in public corruption case.

— Parents fret about kids being held back due to third-grade test results.

—If drag show law is found unconstitutional, AG wants ruling to apply only to Shelby County.

Also: Freddie O’Connell wants “More Ville and less Vegas,” a rival gun rights group wants to “beat political asses” at the Tennessee Capitol, and Cameron Sexton says he’d do it all over again.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

New TNJ edition alert: Sexton defends members against ‘intimidation’ tactics

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) presides first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Sexton lowers boom on aggressive Right to Life lobbying stance

— Evaluating the vagaries of the lawmaker ratings game.

— Wait until next year? Call for opting out federal education money will take some more work.

— AG leaves few multi-state initiatives unjoined, but was quick to back off on defending state gun law.

Also: Compromise appears to be in the works to tone down legislature’s fight with Nashville, Torrey Harris gets a reprieve from his domestic violence and theft charges, Brent Taylor’s trial balloons, and House committee chairs give bill opponents the red card.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

New TNJ edition alert: Party executive panels could face cuts, Lee readies roads push

Chairs are set out for Gov. Bill Lee’s second inauguration on Jan. 19, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Not just for Nashville? Parties’ executive panels could face cuts, too.

— After being sworn in Saturday, Lee to make big push for roads proposal.

— Legislative roundup: Sexton wants cash-pay arrangements with health providers to count against insurance deductibles.

— Election matters: Registry says warnings enough for not following new reporting rules,

Also: The state’s official rifle goes Down Under, Jeremy Durham gets his trial date punted, Mike Bell recovering after heart surgery, and Memphis has a high-tech method for finding potholes.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

[Note to subscribers: The weekly email containing the Tennessee Journal is being sent from a new address. Please check your spam filter if you don’t see your copy in your inbox.)

Find your local House member’s committee assignments

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) presides first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here are House Speaker Cameron Sexton’s committee assignments for the 113th General Assembly:

Alexander, Rebecca (R-Jonesborough)

  • Business and Utilities Sub of Commerce
  • Cities Sub of Local Government
  • Commerce
  • Local Government
  • Public Service Sub of State Government
  • State Government

Barrett, Jody (R-Dickson)

  • Appropriations Sub of Finance
  • Banking and Consumer Affairs Sub of Commerce
  • Commerce
  • Finance

Baum, Charlie (R-Murfreesboro)

  • Appropriations Sub of Finance
  • Education Administration
  • Finance Sub
  • Finance, Vice Chair
  • Higher Education Sub of Education Admin

Beck, Bill (D-Nashville)

  • Civil Justice
  • Civil Justice Sub
  • Departments and Agencies Sub of State Government
  • Ethics
  • Ethics Sub
  • State Government
  • Transportation

Boyd, Clark (R-Lebanon)

  • Appropriations Sub of Finance
  • Business and Utilities Sub of Commerce, Chair
  • Commerce
  • Finance
  • Health

Bricken, Rush (R-Tullahoma)

  • Banking and Consumer Affairs Sub of Commerce
  • Children and Family Affairs Sub of Civil Justice
  • Civil Justice
  • Commerce, Vice Chair
  • Departments and Agencies Sub of State Government
  • State Government

Bulso, Gino (R-Franklin)

  • Civil Justice
  • Civil Justice Sub
  • Education Administration
  • Government Operations
  • K-12 Sub of Education Admin
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Sexton, McNally re-elected speakers

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) presides first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) have been re-elected as the heads of their respective chambers.

All 75 House Republicans voted for Sexton, plus Democrat Antonio Parkinson of Memphis. The remaining 22 members of the minority party voted for Democratic Caucus Chair John Ray Clemmons of Nashville.

In the Senate, 27 Republicans backed another two years with McNally in charge, while all six Democrats abstained.

Here are some more photos of the action on Tuesday.

Senators applaud Sen. Randy McNally’s election as speaker on the first day of session. From front are Sens. Page Walley (R-Savannah), Shane Reeves (R-Murfreesboro), and Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains).
Sen. Bill Powers (R-Clarksville) arrives in the House chamber to inform members the Senate is ready to conduct businesses first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson, center, applauds Sen. Randy McNally’s election as speaker on the first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Freshman Rep. Brock Martin (R-Huntingdon) attends the first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) attends first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Rep. Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon) applauds for House Speaker Cameron Sexton on the first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Rep. Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill) applauds during the first day of the legislative session in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Johnson named new chief of staff for House speaker

Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton confer in the House chamber on Feb. 3, 2020. Walking past the podium at center is Kevin Johnson, Sexton’s new chief of staff. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton has named Kevin Johnson as his new chief of staff. Johnson, who previously worked as general counsel and senior adviser, succeeds Sammie Arnold.

Sexton (R-Crossville) also named Rosie Anderson, his executive assistant and scheduler, as director of operations.

Here’s the release from the speaker’s office:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) today named Kevin Johnson as chief of staff and promoted Rosie Anderson to director of operations. 

“I am excited to announce Kevin Johnson as my new chief of staff and Rosie Anderson as my new director of operations,“ said Speaker Sexton. “Both are dedicated and hardworking professionals who have played a prominent role in serving our members and contributing to the House’s sustained success during the 112th General Assembly.”

A Christian Brothers University graduate, Johnson has served as general counsel and senior advisor to the speaker since 2019. He has previously served as counsel, campaign manager, and field representative for Congressman David Kustoff. Johnson earned his J.D. from Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in Memphis; as chief of staff, he will be responsible for managing daily operations within the House, overseeing strategic projects, and he will continue serving as chief legal counsel to Speaker Sexton.

Rosie Anderson has been promoted to the role of director of operations within the speaker’s office. The University of Tennessee Knoxville graduate holds bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and political science with a concentration in law and courts. A product of the General Assembly’s internship program, the third-year student at Nashville School of Law previously served as the speaker’s executive assistant and scheduler. She will oversee the operations within the speaker’s office —including scheduling, and special projects — and have a role in Speaker Sexton’s legislative initiatives. 

Sexton today also announced the hiring of two new staff members.

Mississippi native and former Bill Lee Campaign team member Chad Bobo joins Speaker Sexton’s Office. The University of Mississippi graduate, husband, and father of two has served as a volunteer with several community organizations — including Community Service Development of Nashville, which works with at-risk children. An experienced community engagement leader who holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration, Bobo will be responsible for constituent and member relations services.    

James Harris joins Speaker Sexton’s Office as executive assistant to the speaker. A native of Nashville and a graduate of Glencliff High School, Harris has previously participated in the legislature’s internship program. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in pre-law from Middle Tennessee State University. In his role as Executive Assistant, Harris will serve as a primary point of contact for all external communications received and manage the speaker’s daily workflow. 

“Chad and James are incredibly talented individuals, and I am grateful they have decided to join my staff. They are strong additions to the Tennessee House of Representatives, and their unique experiences will help them be successful in service to our members, citizens, and our state,” Sexton concluded.

The 113th General Assembly officially convenes on Jan. 10, 2023.

Sexton’s chief of staff leaving for private sector

Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) speaks to colleagues on the House floor in Nashville on Oct. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State House Speaker Cameron Sexton’s chief of staff, Sammie Arnold, is informing colleagues and lawmakers he is leaving for the private sector.

Sexton (R-Crossville) hired Arnold, then an assistant commissioner at the Department of Economic and Community Development, in September 2021. The chief of staff position had been open since Scott Gilmer left in January 2020. Holt Whitt had served as interim chief until he was questioned by FBI agents in connection with a raid on the homes of three lawmakers’ homes and offices in January 2021. Whitt was placed on leave while the investigation was underway. He was hired as a senior adviser in the state Department of Human Resources the following July after obtaining a letter from prosecutors saying he was considered a witness in the Phoenix Solutions case that led to the guilty plea and resignation of Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) and indictment of former Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin).

Arnold is a Dyersburg native who previously worked as a legislative liaison in Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration and on the Republican’s 2010 campaign. Arnold is married to Gov. Bill Lee’s former communications director Laine Arnold.

House GOP re-elects top leadership team

House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) attend a floor session in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Republicans have voted to retain their top leadership team of Speaker Cameron Sexton of Crossville, Majority Leader William Lamberth of Portland, Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison of Cosby, and Majority Whip Johnny Garrett of Goodlettsville. Pat Marsh of Shelbyville was renominated for speaker pr tem. All were unopposed.

Further down the ticket, Mark Cochran of Englewood was elected assistant majority leader. He succeeds Ron Gant of Rossville, who was seriously injured in a head-on crash of two SUVs last month. Cochran had announced his challenge before the wreck and some members had expected Gant to bow out of the race so he could focus on his recovery. But Gant, who did not attend the caucus meeting at Paris Landing State Park, decided to remain on the ballot.

Sexton was one of six candidate for speaker after Glen Casada (R-Franklin) resigned the post amid scandal in the summer of 2019. Faison was elected to succeed Sexton as caucus chair. Lamberth was first elected majority leader in 2017.

Here’s the release from House Republicans:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee House Republicans today selected Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, by unanimous vote to lead the House of Representatives for a third term.
The Republican House Caucus held its biennial organizational meeting to elect leadership positions following a historic election in which the House GOP gained two seats, securing a 75-24 supermajority. The caucus election was held at Paris Landing State Park in Paris, Tenn.

“I greatly appreciate the overwhelming support and the trust my colleagues have placed in me to continue serving as speaker,” said Sexton. “Tennessee leads because Republicans continue standing strong to preserve the freedoms, liberties, and conservative values that are important to the citizens of our state. Together, we will continue to effectively partner to prioritize solutions that build upon the General Assembly’s successes so Tennessee remains the best place to live, work, raise a family, and retire.”

Members voted unanimously to reelect for a third term State Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland, as majority leader, State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, as caucus chairman, and State Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, as majority whip. State Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, was unanimously chosen to serve his second term as Speaker Pro Tempore.

Mark Cochran, R-Englewood, was elected to his first term as Assistant Majority Leader.

“Tennessee voters spoke loud and clear this year when they overwhelmingly elected Republicans to represent them at every level,” Lamberth said. “I am so proud of all this caucus has accomplished. Together, with the leadership of Speaker Sexton, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and Gov. Bill Lee, we will continue to deliver on our promise to uphold common sense conservative values and seek the best possible quality of life for all Tennesseans.”

“Republicans in the legislature have been extremely successful over the last decade at building a stronger, safer, and more prosperous Tennessee,” Faison said. “The House Republican Caucus for the 113th General Assembly is made up of 75 talented, hardworking Tennesseans from every corner of this state who have a great desire to build on that tradition. I’m proud to have their support as we work to move Tennessee forward.”

Others elected to caucus leadership positions include State Rep. Paul Sherrell, R-Sparta as floor leader; State Rep. Scotty Campbell, R-Mountain City, as caucus vice chair; State Rep. Michelle Carringer, R-Knoxville as Secretary; State Rep. Rebecca Alexander, R-Jonesborough, as Treasurer.

Freshman State Rep. Jody Barrett, R-Dickson, was elected Assistant Floor Leader.

The 113th General Assembly is scheduled to convene on Jan. 10, 2023.

McNally, Sexton name task force to study crime, punishment

Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton await Gov. Bill Lee’s arrival for his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

After a spate of high profile slayings in Memphis, Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and his House counterpart, Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), are assembling a special committee to review the adequacy of criminal sentencing in Tennessee.

Here’s the letter from the speakers to Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey and House Clerk Tammy Letzler:

Dear Ms. Clerk and Mr. Clerk:

As Speaker of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 112th General Assembly, we hereby create the Joint Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Adequacy of the Supervision, Investigation, and Release of Criminal Defendants. The Committee is authorized and directed to undertake a review of all information relevant to the supervision, investigation, and release of individuals who commit crimes in this state. The Committee is directed to recommend whether there is a need for legislative action to provide additional safeguards to protect the public from those who repeatedly violate criminal laws.

The Committee may consult with the District Attorneys General Conference to ensure that any pending criminal prosecutions will not be jeopardized by any actions taken by the Committee. The Committee may also consult with groups that represent the interests of victims of crime.

To the extent that the Committee is authorized to review any records that are confidential under existing law, the Committee is directed to take appropriate action to maintain the confidentiality of such records.

The Office of Legal Services shall provide legal services to the Committee, and the Attorney General and Reporter, the Department of Correction, and the District Attorneys General Conference shall assist the Committee and the Office of Legal Services upon request.

Senate members appointed to the Committee are: Senator Ed Jackson (co-chair), Senator Richard Briggs, Senator Todd Gardenhire, Senator Bill Powers, and Senator Jeff Yarbro.

House members appointed to the Committee are: Representative Bud Hulsey (co-chair), Representative Clay Doggett, Representative Andrew Farmer, Representative William Lamberth, Representative Antonio Parkinson, and Representative Lowell Russell.



Lt. Governor Randy McNally

Speaker Cameron Sexton


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