Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada announced he will officially resign in August, but some members of the Republican caucus think he shouldn’t wait.
Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, was one of the first to add his voice to the call for Casada to resign after reports leaked of racist text messages between him and his former chief of staff.
That news broke about a month ago. Casada announced his plan to resign yesterday, about a month later. His letter to the Tennessee General Assembly said he will officially resign on Aug. 2, his 60th birthday.
Hawk said he doesn’t think that’s soon enough.
“We need to get the House back in order,” Hawk told News Channel 11 on Wednesday.
Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said he met with Casada and other members of the caucus leadership yesterday. He said Casada decided on Aug. 2 even though members of the leadership team urged him to resign at an earlier date.
“One of the reasons he gave was that folks such as myself that are running for the speaker’s position,” Hill said. “He said he felt that the Caucus and the House (were) owed full campaign.
“In other words, people running for the office needed to really run for it instead of just waiting a week or two and electing the new speaker.”
Hill announced that he would be seeking the speakership after Casada announced his intent to resign last month. He said he hasn’t completed any official paperwork for that yet but has been traveling across the state to talk with members of the caucus.
He added he wasn’t sure why Casada chose to resign on his own birthday. He added he wasn’t aware of any retirement benefits that Casada would incur by waiting.
Hawk raised suspicions on Casada’s decision to wait nearly two months to officially resign and asked if the reason was so Casada could nudge the speaker campaign in his favor.
“I have fear that Speaker Casada is trying to extend his term as Speaker for another two months to try to use the bully pulpit of being Speaker to try to influence folks to get whomever he would like to see as the next speaker in,” he said.
“There’s some folks who have still been vocal supporters of Casada, even though this mess. Even some folks who may have made some statements that they voted no confidence in Speaker Casada are still supporters of Speaker Casada in the long run.”
He added that the number of committees and subcommittees in the House have almost doubled since Casada became speaker — from about 28 to 42 committees and subcommittees.
Hawk said he would like the next speaker to have some time to get the House back to “normalcy” before the next session begins in January. Hawk said that also meant an increase in chairmen and research analysts to fill out each added committee.
“Over the next six months, we need to get a handle back on the size of the House of Representatives’ committee system and those research analysts,” he said. “Spending even the next few months floundering, waiting for something to happen, is a negative outlook for the state of Tennessee.”
Hawk told News Channel 11 about an email Casada exchanged with General Assembly members, in which he addresses Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, in a manner Hawk dubbed “vilifying.”
Read the email thread here:
“Right’s right and wrong’s wrong, Speaker Casada is wrong in this situation,” Hawk said.
In the email thread, Carter says he was asked to sign off on an advisory ethics opinion that he believed hadn’t been signed by committee members. He said the document that was presented to him would have exonerated the speaker and hadn’t been signed by other members of the House Ethics Committee.
“I am unaware in my seven years on ethics of any other time an advisory opinion exonerating a member has been drafted without the input of a single committee member,” Carter said in the email. “I was and remain stunned that an exonerating opinion was issued without input from any member, based on facts stated by the author without any investigation.”
In his response, Casada says he hasn’t reviewed a copy of the advisory opinion that Carter said was presented to him, and said he hasn’t spoken with anyone on the House Ethics Committee that had a similar experience.
“I would submit to you that Representative Carter is using his position on the House Ethics Committee as a platform to run for Speaker, much in the same way he wrongfully accused me of trying to predetermine an outcome from the committee to remain as Speaker,” he says in the email.