The Tennessee House of Representatives on Friday formally selected a new speaker to replace Glen Casada, a Williamson County Republican who stepped down earlier this year in wake of a scandal.
Cameron Sexton, a Republican from Crossville, was elected to preside over the 99-member body for the remainder of its current session, which ends next year.
Sexton won the post on a 94-0 vote. Two Democrats, Gloria Johnson of Knoxville and Bo Mitchell of Nashville, abstained.
Sexton’s first speech after taking the oath of office to assume the House’s top lawmaker position focused on Tennesseans “answering the call.”
He made reference to Tennessee “volunteers” at the War of 1812, the Alamo, as well as those who pushed ratification of women’s suffrage and others who helped revive the city of Memphis after Yellow Fever epidemics decimated the population in the 19th century.
“Today we are here to answer our call — a call to work together to the betterment of Tennessee, and our people,” Sexton told the lawmakers gathered on the chamber floor for the one-day special session called specifically to replace Casada. “Our call is to leave our great state in better shape than when we first arrived.”
“When we look back on our service in this historic body, we all want to be remembered for the successes and accomplishments,” he continued. “If we are going to dwell, let’s dwell on the good, on our future, and the Tennesseans who have always answered the call before us.”
Sexton lauded the state’s job growth and low unemployment of late, and pledged to protect Tennessee’s status as “the most fiscally responsible state in the union.”
He also promised to work amicably with the GOP-dominated Senate and Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s executive branch.
He added, though, that maintaining legislative independence is an important aspect of the House’s business. “Preserving our individualism as a separate branch is what our founders requested us to do,” Sexton said.
Sexton also vowed that under his leadership, minority viewpoints won’t be suppressed. He observed that while members of the Legislature often disagree on the best methods for achieving public policy goals, they tend to share priorities.
“We all want great schools, great jobs, great infrastructure and great health care,” he said. “The challenge is, we will not always agree on the pathway to get there. But together we will get there.”
Sexton said he’ll “always encourage robust but respectful debate on the pathways to the shared goals of all Tennesseans.”
“My promise as speaker is simple: we won’t always agree on every issue, but I will always make sure that your voice is heard,” he added.
Tennessee Republicans currently outnumber Democrats 72-26 in the House. As in the Senate, the GOP enjoys a supermajority and with it overwhelming agenda-setting dominance.
Former House Speaker Casada resigned earlier this month as a result of a scandal involving salacious texts he’d exchanged with his chief of staff. Although still a member of the General Assembly, Casada was not present at the special session Friday.