Embattled Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada was dealt a severe blow to his attempt to save his legislative career yesterday, when House Republicans formally passed a resolution of “no confidence” in his leadership.
The move by Republicans follows revelations from earlier this month that Casada engaged in sexually explicit texts with his chief of staff Cade Cothran.
Glen Casada and aide share sexually explicit texts
On May 6th Casada’s chief of staff, Cade Cothren, resigned following the revelation that he had been sending sexually explicit texts about female interns, lobbyists, and other women. Speaker Glen Casada was included in the text conversations, and reportedly took part in at least some exchanges.
According to reporting in the Tennesseean, Cothran has a history of sending inappropriate texts that dates back to at least 2014. These include soliciting oral sex and sending naked images to an intern, seeking sex with a lobbyist, and calling another woman a “cunt.”
Cothran, who was appointed Casada’s chief of staff in January on an annual salary just under $200,000, claimed the texts discovered by the Tennessean reflect an earlier, less mature phase of his life.
“I’m just not the same guy that I was several years back,” he said. “I was young and dumb and immature. There’s no excuse for it at all, and I’m not trying to make excuses, but I can tell you that I have changed since then.”
Casada, in turn, described his comments as referring to “a relationship between two consenting adults.”
Casada conference call to GOP members backfires
Two days after the allegations emerged, Casada attempted to repair the damage with his own caucus with a conference call. During that call, Representative Jerry Sexton proposed holding a vote of confidence in Casada’s leadership.
“The Republican Party and our caucus is at stake here,” Sexton said afterwards. “For the sake of the caucus and the Republican Party, we need to make the best decision in that respect.”
That caucus vote was eventually scheduled over Casada’s objections, and took place yesterday afternoon at the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Nashville.
After several hours, the resolution expressing no confidence in Casada’s leadership was passed 45-24.
Governor considers calling special session to remove Casada
Glen Casada has faced a series of calls for his resignation from both sides of the aisle since the allegations first emerged.
These only grew after Mike Carter (Repubican – Ooltewah) accused Casada of trying to improperly influence the House Ethics committee on May 16th.
“The facts are not fully known, and my understanding is the investigation is in its infancy. However, with great reluctance and a heavy heart, I now feel moved to call for the resignation of Speaker Casada, based on the facts that I now know,” he said in a statement to the Chattanooga Times.
“It is not an allegation of past conduct, it is proof of present state of mind and present conduct,” Carter added.
Following yesterday’s GOP caucus meeting, House Majority Leader William Lamberth called on governor Bill Lee to call a special session to remove Casada by the end of June.
Governor Lee is reported to be considering a special session if Casada does not resign.
Glen Casada refuses to step down
Glen Casada has not denied sending the texts, but is so far ignoring calls to resign. In a statement issued following yesterday’s no confidence resolution he said:
“I’m disappointed with the result of today’s caucus vote. However, I will work the next few months to regain the confidence of my colleagues so we can continue to build on the historic conservative accomplishments of this legislative session.”
Casada, who represents Williamson County in the metropolitan Nashville area, was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2000. He became speaker in January 2019.
In the months leading up to his election as Speaker, Casada promised a resolute defense of any members accused of sexual impropriety. He pledged not pressure members to resign unless they were convicted of wrongdoing in a court of law.
Following yesterday’s vote, Casada’s fellow Republicans appear to be in no mood to be as generous when it comes to their Speaker’s own transgressions.