After Turbulent Tenure, Tennessee House Speaker Officially Steps Down

In addition to the text message controversy, legislative critics charged Casada of using harsh tactics, threats, "spies" and fear to hold GOP and Democratic lawmakers in check.
by | August 6, 2019 AT 8:07 AM

By Andy Sher

Embattled Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada officially stepped down from the post Friday per a previous agreement made under pressure with fellow Republicans to resign following a series of political blow ups that began with sexually explicit and racist texts exchanges with a top aide.

Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn of Knoxville is now officially in charge of the House. But the 25-year House Republican veteran's reign as head of the chamber will be brief.

Dunn will serve 21 days with lawmakers set to return to the Capitol on Aug. 23 for a special session called by Republican Gov. Bill Lee where the chamber's GOP super majority is expected to elect Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton of Crossville as the new speaker for the remainder of the 111th General Assembly.

Casada, who turned 60 on Friday, confirmed to WKRN in a text message that while he has stepped down as speaker, he isn't quitting representing his Franklin-based House district.

"I am not resigning my seat and I have not begun to consider next year...too far in the future to decide what I'm going to do regarding running for reelection or not," Casada said in the text message.

In early May, two thirds of the 73-member GOP Caucus voted to say they no longer had confidence in Casada's ability to serve. After Casada balked initially at stepping down, Lee stepped in to say he would call the legislature into special session to remove him if he did not. Casada agreed to go but set the Aug. 2 date.

In addition to the text message controversy, legislative critics charged Casada of using harsh tactics, threats, "spies" and fear to hold GOP and Democratic lawmakers in check.

Yet another major controversy involved Casada's tactics in muscling Lee's controversial school voucher bill through House committees and finally getting passed on the chamber floor after it initially snagged on a 49-49 tie vote for 40 minutes.

Casada's temporary replacement is Dunn, 58, a social conservative who has championed restrictions on abortion and school vouchers. Dunn, who was not part of Casada's clique, decided not to join the six-member field of Republicans, including Sexton and Rep. Mike Carter of Ooltewah, who vied to become the GOP Caucus nominee.

"I'm very happy being speaker pro tem and I also value my independence," Dunn said in a Friday interview, joking that the job of speaker seems to be "not telling 98 [other members] what to do, but 98 people telling you what to do."

Under House rules, Dunn is not giving up his speaker pro tempore post which means "temporary speaker" in Latin. The duties of the office are primarily filling the role of presiding officer of the House in absence of the speaker.

Asked how he thinks his brief tenure will go in comparison to the turbulent Casada era, the normally laid-back Dunn offered this: "It's going to be the reign of BoreDunn."

(c)2019 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.)