On Monday, Republican lawmakers gathered in Nashville to vote on whether Glen Casada, the politically besieged GOP speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, retains enough support to continue on in his role as the the chamber’s presiding officer.
The results went markedly against the Williamson County Republican, who was elected to serve as speaker just this year.
On a 45-22 vote, the House Republican Caucus delivered a no-confidence motion, signaling that faith in Casada’s ability to effectively run the legislative body is critically in doubt.
The outcome of the vote was seen as something of a surprise, given that only a handful of the 73-member House Republican Caucus had previously given any public indication that they want to see Speaker Casada step down or be removed in wake of revelations that one of his former staffers sent racially disparaging and sexually explicit text messages in years past, in addition to boasting about using illegal drugs.
Some of the electronic private messages at issue were received by Casada himself, who apparently made no effort to reprimand or take disciplinary action against the employee — and later promoted him to chief of staff after Rep. Casada was elected speaker.
Monday’s vote appeared to mark a dramatic shift in Casada’s political fortunes — with some of the state’s most powerful and prominent GOP politicians and operatives now pushing for his removal as speaker.
“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,” Republican Party state chairman Scott Golden said in a statement Monday.
Also on Monday, Governor Bill Lee said he’d be open to calling a special session of the House of Representatives to strip Casada of his leadership post if the embattled speaker refuses to go voluntarily.
House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, has joined calls for Casada to step aside as well.
“Regardless of how long ago, regardless of what the behavior is, we take this type of allegation very, very seriously,” Lamberth told reporters following the vote. “And I think that has been stated very clearly by this caucus today.
Republicans in both the Tennessee House and Senate enjoy supermajority control of their respective chambers, meaning their voting bloc is large enough to set agendas and conduct business irrespective of the wishes of Democrats, who enjoy little popularity and support outside the state’s major urban areas.
House Democrats have been calling for Casada’s removal since the scandal broke earlier this month.