Following a vote of no confidence Monday by the House Republican caucus, Gov. Bill Lee says he will call the legislature back for a special session if Speaker Glen Casada does not resign.
“Today House Republicans sent a clear message, and I’m prepared to call a special session if the Speaker doesn’t resign,” Lee said in a statement Monday night.
The House Republican Caucus held a meeting on Monday where members voted 45-24 that they no longer had confidence in Casada’s leadership.
Lee’s remarks were his strongest to date on the controversy surrounding Casada, who is in the middle of a scandal involving misogynistic texts traded with his former chief of staff Cade Cothren.
While House Majority Leader William Lamberth earlier in the evening had called on Casada to resign and for the Republican governor to call a special session, soon after Lee’s announcement, the rest of the House Republican leadership announced they, too, wanted Casada gone.
Lamberth, R-Portland and Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, had throughout the last two weeks withheld giving any strong opinion on what they believed should happen to Casada.
Cothren resigned May 6 after The Tennessean published a story about him soliciting sexual acts from a legislative intern and lobbyist, and following his admission first to NewsChannel 5 that he used cocaine in a legislative office building.
In his statement Monday night, Lamberth askedLee to initiate a special session in the next month.
He said had waited to give his “personal position on this matter” until the House Republican caucus had an opportunity to meet.
“After today’s vote, 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.
During a special session, if called, the legislature could vote on expelling Casada or potentially removing him as speaker.
Other prominent Republicans weighed in Monday night calling for resignation
In addition to Lamberth and Sexton, other Republican leaders calling for Casada’s resignation or a special session include Reps. Ron Gant, Matthew Hill, Chris Todd, Rick Tillis, Paul Sherrell, Clay Doggett and Mark Cochran.
Hill, who has been a defender of Casada throughout the session up until recent days, said in a statement Monday night that the “past few weeks have been deeply troubling” for him and he wanted to restore trust in the House and in the ethics committee he chairs.
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“I don’t condone what has been brought to light, but I also don’t kick someone while they are down,” said Hill, who is deputy speaker. “So, I will just say I believe we can and will do better as a caucus.”
Immediately following the caucus vote, which lasted roughly three hours at a downtown Nashville hotel, top Republicans in the state called on Casada to listen to his fellow members.
“The House Republican Caucus has now spoken clearly and distinctly,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who had already called on Casada to resign. “I am hopeful Speaker Casada will put the legislature, the party and the state first and heed the call of his colleagues.”
Tennessee Republican Party chairman Scott Golden called the situation surrounding Casada a “distraction” from the legislature’s work this session and commended House Republicans for taking “the right course of action” on Monday.
“The vote of no confidence by the Republican caucus sends a clear message; it is time for the speaker to heed the advice of the majority of his fellow legislators and step down from his position of leadership and allow someone else to begin the process of restoring the trust of all Tennesseans,” said Golden.
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