Tennessee House GOP elects Casada as next speaker
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee House Republicans on Tuesday elected Majority Leader Glen Casada as the chamber’s next speaker, reconfiguring another level of state government leadership as GOP Gov.-elect Bill Lee prepares to take office.
During a caucus meeting, House Republican lawmakers picked Casada and a slate of other new leaders as they enter the legislative session that officially begins in January.
The 59-year-old Franklin Republican received 47 secret-ballot votes out of 73 Republicans in the 99-member chamber on the first ballot. He defeated Reps. Curtis Johnson of Clarksville and David Hawk of Greeneville.
Casada’s election answers the biggest leadership question left after November elections in which Republicans kept the governor’s office and maintained legislative supermajorities, only losing one net House seat to Democrats and losing none in the Senate.
Casada promised to help re-elect every Republican in the House, streamline the committee system and add subcommittees, and increase the House’s role in the state budget process. He touted Tennessee’s economic gains and improvements in education.
“Every House incumbent sitting in this room today, I will be involved in your re-elect, not only in November, but in August,” Casada told fellow Republican lawmakers, referencing the general election and primaries, respectively.
Casada replaces Speaker Beth Harwell, a Nashville Republican who defeated Casada in the speaker race eight years ago. Harwell, who had served in the top House leadership post since 2011, left the Legislature in an unsuccessful bid for governor.
Casada is a former Williamson County commissioner. He was initially elected to the House in a 2001 special election.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini blasted the GOP’s choice of Casada, pointing to his support for Republican Rep. David Byrd’s re-election despite accusations of sexual misconduct against him by three women when he was their high school basketball coach decades ago, among other concerns.
Casada was involved in several Republican primary races in August.
Casada told reporters Tuesday that there would be a rhetorical line where he would not help a Republican lawmaker’s re-election: “some kind of criminal activity, that’s not to be tolerated in the House,” he said. “But I know these ladies and gentlemen and they will not go there.”
Johnson, Casada’s opponent, promised to avoid Republican division or scandal if he were elected, saying he doesn’t play political games.
House Republicans also elected leaders for a number of other roles, including: Rep. William Lamberth of Cottontown as majority leader, Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville as GOP caucus chairman and Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville as speaker pro tem.
Senate Republicans are expected to re-elect Speaker Randy McNally of Oak Ridge to keep his leadership post on Dec. 3.
Democrats also are set to gather in the coming weeks to elect their House and Senate minority party leadership.
The House and Senate will cast official votes for the leadership positions in January.