Just minutes before Saturday night’s Statesman’s Dinner in Nashville, Goernor Bill Lee sent a message to the citizens of Tennessee that our elected “statesmen” are about a pound shy of being “statesmen.” My definition of a statesman is one who stands taller than the rest, who balances as many decisions as possible on the Holy Bible and the Constitution, who never loses sight that his role is the welfare and betterment of the general populous he is sworn to serve, and who has the inner gumption to do what is right in a world of wrongs.
Also on Saturday, Governor Lee announced he would call a special session of the legislature – in August -- to replace embattled Glen Casada as the Speaker of the House. Understand, an entire month has passed since Casada received “no confidence” vote (45-24) from his Republican peers in the Legislature. It will now be two more months before the Legislature addresses a man who spent approximately $11,000 in some sort of “white noise” contraption around his office in the Legislative Plaza and, for lack of a better truth, skillfully pulled our entire Legislature down to his loathsome level.
On May 20, the seated Republicans in the legislature held a private, closed-door session to deal with the scandalous behavior of Casada, who is a power-hungry representative from Franklin, and who quite obviously fell under some unfathomable illusion he was the darling of the ‘super majority’ in the legislature when, instead, he has become the scourge of the Republican Party. Say what you will but Glen Casada has done more to embolden and verify the Democratic Party in Tennessee than any other man alive.
Immediately after his thumbs-down moment and quickly-mounting criticism, he was backed into such a corner he had no choice but to resign as the Speaker of the House – and relinquish his State Trooper bodyguard, chauffeur, and it’s haughty non-necessity – but indicated he would let the citizens know his plans after his return from some posh European vacation. Upon his return he “conferred with his colleagues” and announced he would remain office until August 2 to tender his official resignation letter. Since when did “a lack of confidence” allow some culprit the right to orchestrate his own demise, especially when an extra three months is an inexcusable affront to the taxpayers who his misdeeds affected the most.
Are you serious? It is a slap in the face for Tennessee to endure ‘a lame duck’ for three more months after his peers called him out, making the worst-of-the-worst legislator the first speaker since 1931 to be shown the door. On Saturday Governor Lee told us, "I’ve spoken with many of the folks in the legislature, and we agree that it's time to move forward, and the best way to do that is to go ahead and call a session and have a date so we can start making plans to get a new leader," Lee said.
In a sane world, Casada should have been handed a cardboard box and observed by representatives of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation as he cleared is office of all personal effects. Allowing the issue to linger shows the Republican Party is much more attuned to protecting its own than presenting any decorum of statesmanship. What’s worse is Casada has said he will remain as the Williamson County representative, which would result in a total mockery of what’s right and what’s wrong
Mike Carter, who represents Ooltewah in Nashville, said that by leaving Casada as the Speaker until August "would be destructive" to the House and he’s right. Carter also accused Casada of trying to “rig and predetermine” an ethics issue and Mike was right again, this proven by the “ruthless” manner Casada has learned as a politician and how he deals out favors, never forgetting a one when it needs to be used. Carter knows why, too, saying Casada "is intent on using his position and his substantial PAC funding to punish those who dared to challenge him and to use his position to pick his successor so that he will, in effect, be the shadow Speaker."
Carter, along with Hixson’s Robin Smith, are hoping to be Casada’s replacement as speaker, and you have to ask yourself how can anyone not imagine a glaring conflict if Casada remains in the legislature? Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, has had about all he can stand of Casada’s “me first” attitude. "So, is this what our Republican House Caucus can expect from you over the next two months, as you intend to hang on as speaker?!
"Do you and your remaining supporters in the House continually intend to attack those of us who have rightfully called for your resignation? You, trying to assign blame to others for your downfall is wrong on multiple levels. Stop!"
Hawk also sent word to Casada, "Your audacity in thinking that you can set your own time frame for resignation as speaker is unacceptable, as well. Once again, I ask that you resign immediately from serving as Tennessee Speaker of the House."
Governor Lee said on several occasions that if Casada did not resign, he would call for a special session of the Legislature but after Casada set his 60th birthday (Aug. 2) as the day he would resign, why did Governor Lee announce a meeting in mid-August? It is hoped it would trigger a resignation from the legislature as well as the Speaker’s chair. One source says that is not the case, that Casada still plans to play a major role in the legislature.
The Republican caucus will meet sometime before the governor convenes the entire legislature to select the GOP’s choice as Casada’s replacement. Among the party members vying for Casada’s seat are publicly announced or are rumored to be interested in taking over the speaker's office, including Deputy Speaker Matthew Hill, Rep. Curtis Johnson, House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton, as well as Reps.Carter and Smith. The House Democratic Caucus has called his actions "unbecoming and disrespectful" and demanded he leave office.
Casada, ever defiant, insists he will keep his seat in the Legislature so there is plenty for Governor Lee to consider before his called meeting with the Legislature in mid-August but Lankford, a longtime Casada cohort in Williamson County, warned there is a difference in today’s Casada and the man he used to know. In 2017, Casada divorced his wife and Lankford said his friend had "lost his moral compass." According to a story in the Tennessean, “He said Casada's marriage was not only a promise to his wife, but a covenant with God. If you would lie to God and break the covenant with your wife, how can I trust you to keep your word to me?" Lankford asked rhetorically.
Lankford is urging members of the House Republican caucus to demand Casada step down because he “demoralized women,” and for his hiring of aide Cade Cothren.
"They need to have the courage to do the right thing," he said. "Forget your friend, forget the politics."
It is readily apparent that noble statesmen, particularly in Tennessee’s Republican Party, are getting few and far between.