After returning from a vacation in Europe this week, House Speaker Glen Casada announced Tuesday his intent to resign from his leadership position on Aug. 2.
He was elected to the position in January, replacing Rep. Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, who served as House speaker for eight years.
The House Republican Caucus cast a secret-ballot vote, 45-24, of “no confidence” in Casada’s leadership, during a special called session May 20 at an undisclosed location. The vote followed Casada’s involvement in sending sexually explicit text messages about women in 2016 to two men, one of which was his former chief of staff Cade Cothren.
In a June 4 letter addressed to the 111th General Assembly, Casada, who represents the county’s 63rd District, informed the House about his intent to resign Aug. 2 and requested Gov. Bill Lee call a special House session to elect a new speaker the same day.
Casada laid out his request in the letter after meeting with Republican leadership earlier in the day.
“I also request that Governor Bill Lee call the General Assembly into a special session for legislative business that day," Casada wrote. "During the special session, the House may take up the procedural matter of electing a new speaker to lead the chamber.”
Lee commented on Casada’s request via Twitter but did not confirm that he will comply with Casada's August request.
“Now that the Speaker has announced his intended timeline, we will continue to be in close communication with House leadership and members to determine the best outcome for the House and for Tennessee,” Lee tweeted.
Casada received some criticism among some legislators regarding delaying his resignation until Aug. 2, instead of resigning immediately.
Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, said Casada's choice to delay the resignation for two months is unacceptable.
"Glen's decision to keep his speaker seat until August is not acceptable to the majority of the House Republucan Caucus," Whitson said. "For the best interest of the caucus, the General Assembly and the state of Tennessee, Glen needs to step aside from his speaker duties now. There is no need to hold a special session to select a speaker.
"Bill Dunn, as our Speaker Pro Tempore, can serve in Glen's place until we elect a new speaker just prior to our next session in January 2020. This will not only save the state money, but allows a constitutional solution rather than a political maneuver to restore trust in our legislature. We may not have a say who we serve with, but we do have a say who leads us in the House of Representatives."
Casada agrees to resign as House speaker
Two weeks ago, Casada announced he would consult with Republican leadership about the best time to resign when he returned June 3 from his previously planned vacation.
“When I return to town on June 3," he said, "I will meet with Caucus leadership to determine the best date for me to resign as speaker so that I can help facilitate a smooth transition.”
At the time, House Majority Leader William Lamberth requested Lee call a special session by the end of June.
“ … After today's vote (May 20), it is time for the speaker to resign, and I hereby request Governor Lee call a special session by the end of June for the House to choose a new speaker,” Lamberth said.
Casada says more time needed to choose House speaker
When the Herald reached out to Casada for comment, he said a later date was more convenient because it would allow the House more time to decide on choosing its next leader.
“It gives those running for speaker several weeks to campaign and the House to vet those individuals,” he said.
According to Casada, at least five possible candidates are vying for the position of next House speaker, including Reps. Bill Dunn, Mike Carter, Robin Smith, Cameron Sexton, Mathew Hill and at least two others.
When asked if he was supporting a certain candidate for speaker, Casada said he’d rather stay out of it.
“I won’t get involved in the speaker’s race,” he said. “It’s up to the House to elect the speaker.”
Casada to turn 60 Aug. 2
The date that Casada picked to end his short stint as speaker also coincides with his birthday. He will turn 60 on Aug. 2.
“I just thought that it was a neat date to end my time, resign as speaker,” he said.
He also claimed any speculation that the date might have something to do with benefits for retirement or other incentives is “rumor mongering” and “irrelevant.” Instead, Casada explained that the date is more “symbolic” or “poetic” than anything else.
Casada currently receives a salary as speaker at a rate of $6,000 a month.
“I am resigning as speaker (not as a representative),” he said.
If Lee chooses to call the House special session Aug. 2, any House member could call for Casada to be removed from his 63rd District seat as representative in Franklin and Thompson's Station.
However, according to recent statements by Whitson, there is a lack of momentum among House Republicans to remove Casada from his legislative seat.
Whitson has been the only member of the Williamson County delegation to call for Casada’s resignation. Freshman Rep. Brandon Ogles, R-Franklin, who also serves as vice chairman of the House Republican Caucus, has not stated his position on Casada’s resignation. Ogles is the first-ever freshman legislator elected to serve in the position of caucus vice chairman.
“Technically, they can impeach anyone,” Casada said about the imminent House session.
Other reps have done more 'egregious' things
Casada also explained that other House members have done worse things which have not warranted their removal.
“We have a member who was disciplined by the ethics committee for sexually inappropriate conduct, and other existing House members (in both parties), about five off the top of my head, have done far more egregious things than send a couple of text messages 3 ½ years ago,” he said.
The last House representative to be removed by a majority vote during a special House session was Williamson County Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, who once served as House Republican Caucus whip at the same time that Casada held the position of House Republican Caucus chairman.