With an eye on becoming House speaker, Casada budgets $200K to help elect favored Republican reps

House Majority Leader Glen Casada has budgeted more than $200,000 in spending by his political action committee as part of an “aggressive strategy” to elect Republican representatives this year and —  perhaps not so coincidentally – help him get elected as the House speaker by those winning the races, reports Andy Sher.

Casada is one of at least four current Republican legislators eyeing a run to succeed current House Speaker Beth Harwell, who is not seeking reelection to the House this year and instead running for governor. The other three are Rep. Gerald McCormick, a former majority leader; House Speaker Pro Tempore Curtis Johnson and Rep. David Hawk, currently assistant majority leader.

Casada plans to take sides in a number of contested open GOP primaries where no incumbent is running, as well as in defending sitting Republican representatives who face Aug. 2 primary challengers.

Casada confirmed in an interview that he will use his personal leadership political action committee, CAS-PAC, to hire 13 field staffers and offer candidates assistance in everything from getting organized and putting together data bases to knocking on voters’ doors and phone banking.

He also will be making contributions and assisting candidates who want the help when it comes to fundraising. Casada said he’s budgeting about $208,000 for the overall effort.

“This is nothing new to me,” said the Franklin Republican, a former House GOP Caucus chairman…Still, when asked if his flurry of activity could aid a bid to replace Harwell, the first female speaker in Tennessee history and a candidate for governor, Casada said “I do hope it helps, because I’m interested in running for speaker.

“But,” he quickly added, “first thing’s first. And the first thing is getting good people elected to the open seats and making sure all of the incumbents come back. So I am not putting the cart before the horse.”

…While candidates for speaker and other leadership offices have traditionally sought to encourage good will among current lawmakers and candidates with contributions, Casada is taking it to a whole new level, especially with using his leadership PAC to hire campaign staffers.

McCormick, who served six years as majority leader, noted that while leader, “I was a lot more active in the campaigns because the majority leader leads and also appoints the caucus campaign committees. That’s one of his or her official duties. So you’d expect him to be more involved in campaigns for incumbents.”

The Chattanoogan said he’s given money to the caucus campaign committee, more than was asked, “so we’re all together on that.”

And, McCormick said, he too is making contributions to legislative candidates, including some running in open districts where there is no incumbent but there is a contested GOP primary.

…One race where McCormick and Casada are already on opposing sides is on filling the House District 30 seat being left open by Rep. Marc Gravitt, R-East Ridge, who is retiring to run for the Republican nomination for Hamilton County Register of Deeds.

McCormick is backing Jonathan Mason of Chattanooga, whom he’s known for years, as Gravitt’s successor. Casada is supporting Esther Helton, an East Ridge city commissioner.

Speaker Pro Tempore Johnson said he “hadn’t had a chance, frankly, to keep up with what [Casada] is doing” as he meets with GOP colleagues around the state.

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