re-election campaign

Indicted senator cites ‘exciting change’ in personal life in deciding agaisnt re-election bid

State Sen. Brian Kelsey denies wrongdoing in a video conference call following his indictment on Oct. 25, 2021. (Image: screengrab from call)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Germantown Republican awaiting a federal criminal trial related to campaign fundraising during a 2016 congressional bid, announced he won’t seek re-election to the General Assembly this year.

“I will not be running for reelection due to a recent, exciting change in my personal life,” Kelsey wrote on Twitter. “And I look forward to spending more time with my family.”

Kelsey initially vowed to seek a rapid trial in hopes of clearing his name, but was later granted a yearlong delay.

After arguing in favor of the state’s school voucher law in a Supreme Court challenge last year, Kelsey was notably not among the speakers when the case was reheard before the state’s highest court last month.

Former House Speaker Casada to retire amid FBI scrutiny

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

Former state House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) announced he won’t seen another term in 2022. The decision comes after federal agents searched his home and office before the start of the legislative session in January. No charges have been filed.

Casada stepped down as speaker in 2019 following a text messaging scandal with this former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, and a revolt among Republican lawmakers over his heavy-handed leadership style.

Casada has denied offering inducements to lawmakers to vote in favor of Gov. Bill Lee’s signature school voucher bill, which narrowly passed the chamber after the speaker kept the voting board open to cajole holdouts to switch their votes. Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) ultimately changed his vote from no to yes after being promised his home county would be kept out of the bill.

Here’s the release from Casada:

Franklin, TN – Glen Casada (Republican, Dist. 63) announced today that he will not seek re-election to the State House, marking the end of a 20-year career as state representative. Casada has served as Caucus Chairman, Majority Leader and Speaker of the House. “This decision comes after much prayer and thought,” said Casada. “I am blessed and grateful to have served Williamson County and to have achieved many goals for my constituents, but it is time for a new chapter of public service.”

Casada sponsored the landmark constitutional amendment to ban the personal state income tax, and has successfully sponsored numerous conservative, pro-life and pro­ business initiatives. Several organizations have honored Casada as Legislator of the Year throughout his public service career.

Rep. Sam Whitson (Republican, Dist. #65) commented, “I strongly feel that Katie Beckett will be Glen’s legacy,” referring to the 2019 law that gave access to life-saving medical treatments and therapies to children with special needs. Casada secured funding for the program. “This law would not have been possible without his support and leadership.”

Elected to the Democrat-controlled State House in 2001, Casada worked tirelessly to support conservative candidates across the state. Those efforts were successfully rewarded in 2008 when voters flipped the State Assembly to a Republican majority for the first time since 1868.

“Glen’s strong conservative voice will be greatly missed,” said Rep. Brandon Ogles (Republican, Dist. #61). “Tennessee is better off today because of Glen’s investment in our state.”

Senator Jack Johnson (Republican, Dist. #23) remarked, “Rep. Casada is a great friend and a tremendous asset to our community. I am grateful for his conservative leadership and service to Williamson County and Tennessee.”

Lee administration giving conservative activists jump on public releases

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters outside the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Want to know what Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is up to before the general public? Find a way to get on the mailing list of the Republican’s external affairs director. That’s not to be confused with the governor’s communications office, which handles traditional media releases and the likes.

Lee’s External Affairs Director Joseph Williams last week emailed activists to inform them about “a key conservative priority” by the governor to ban China-backed Confucius Institutes at public universities and require transparency for other foreign gifts and investments. The correspondence included a copy of a press release that would be sent out the public and media two hours later.

Here’s the email:

From: Joseph Williams
Subject: Governor Lee’s Transparency In Foreign Investment Act
Date: March 16, 2021 at 12:08:45 PM CDT

Friends,
The Governor wanted y’all to get news on this before we issue a press release. This continues to be a key conservative priority moving forward.
Let me know if you have any follow-up questions. Best,
Joseph  

Joseph Williams| Director of External Affairs

One recipient was thrilled to hear it, encouraging like-minded folks to send Williams an “attaboy for a job well done,” especially given past policy differences with Lee over COVID-19 mitigation, the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust at the Capitol, and Black Lives Matter protests in Nashville.

Lee appears to be have ramped up his partisan rhetoric in advance of next year’s re-election campaign, but his use of government resources to reach out to potential voters is raising eyebrows among political observers.