Tennessee Lt. Governor says House Speaker Casada should leave his post

Randy McNally_352405

Toughening his position, Tennessee Republican Senate Speaker Randy McNally now says embattled GOP House Speaker Glen Casada should resign his leadership post.

McNally said Friday that he thinks Casada should step aside, though it’s the House’s decision. 

It has been my goal over the past few days to allow the House of Representatives to address the issues they are facing without distraction. I am very aware that any comments from the other chamber can be counterproductive to their ongoing process. Questions of resignation or removal remain up to Speaker Casada and the House alone. I would expect any removal process to include due process. When asked my personal opinion on the matter, I can only answer honestly. I believe it would be in the best interest of the legislature and the state of Tennessee for Speaker Casada to vacate his office at this time.

McNally declined to say Thursday whether Casada should resign, then later said Casada would likely be asked to resign if he were a senator.

The Speaker says he wants a House Ethics review of his handling of chief of staff Cade Cothren’s resignation on Monday after reports of the former top aide allegedly sending racist text messages. 

Rep. Casada also said he supports plans for a full House Republican caucus meeting to answer “lingering questions” that include commenting on “sexually explicit” texts that he admits Cothren shared with him. 

“I sent two. I have apologized,” said the Speaker as he hurried past reporters asking him questions Friday. 

In his statement Friday, Speaker Casada said he hopes a special prosecutors review of potentially altered emails concerning the ban of an activist from Capitol Hill will be done “thoroughly…quickly” and where all the facts come out. 

As we move into the weekend, I wanted to share a quick update on the immediate steps we are taking to follow up on the Action Plan released earlier this week to address recent issues and concerns. 

Today I submitted a letter to the Chairman of the House Ethics Committee requesting that they issue an advisory opinion concerning my actions taken relative to the resignation of my former Chief of Staff. I welcome feedback from this bipartisan committee. 

I have learned that a special prosecutor has been appointed by the District Attorney Generals’ Conference to begin investigating the email from Mr. Justin Jones that was forwarded by my former Chief of Staff to the local District Attorney. My desire is for this independent review to be completed as quickly and thoroughly as possible and for all of the facts to come out. To that end, I have instructed the Speaker’s office and the joint Legislative Information Services staff to fully and immediately comply with all requests for information related to that email made by the special prosecutor. 

Finally, I support the call by some of my Republican members for an upcoming GOP Caucus meeting to continue to hear and address lingering concerns. I am confident the more my colleagues have actual facts before them the better. 

We will continue to update you as we implement our Action Plan to bring clarity and transparency to this process, to reestablish trust where it has been broken, and to return to the people’s business. 

MORE: Senate leader won’t call for Speaker Casada’s resignation

Republican Gov. Bill Lee also increased his criticism of Casada over recently released text messages involving Casada and a former top aide with lewd remarks about women, among other mounting scandals.

Lee said Thursday that, if Casada were in his administration or an executive at Lee’s company, he would ask him to resign.

MORE: Casada holding on to power, Lee would ask Casada to resign

Casada has rebuffed resignation calls and released a plan he says will regain trust.

Similarly, Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn also declined to weigh in on whether Casada should continue to serve as House speaker.

Blackburn served in the Tennessee General Assembly between 1999 and 2003, leaving before Casada took office in the House. She was elected to the U.S. Senate last November. The two reside in the same powerful GOP-dominant legislative district just south of Nashville, where Gov. Bill Lee also lives.

“A decision on whether he steps down or not, that will be for the House Republican Caucus who elected him to make that decision. And then his service depends on the people who elected him and they’re the ones that will make that decision,” Blackburn said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. “The things that I’ve read, the comments, the texts, are pretty disgusting.”

MORE: Williamson Co. lawmaker thinks Speaker Casada ‘will make the right decision in the end’

Separately, a handful of Republican lawmakers have called for Casada to step down as speaker, as well as Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups upset with the series of text message scandals that have ranged from Casada’s former chief of staff sending racist messages, accusations of evidence tampering and Casada participating in sexually explicit text messages with his former key staffer.

Casada has pushed back against calls to resign the speakership in recent days. Instead, he released an apology and a four-part “action plan” on Wednesday promising it would help regain trust from his members.

House speakers in Tennessee serve two years before seeking reelection. Casada has been speaker since January.

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