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Tennessee House Speaker to Resign Amid Text Message Scandal

Chas Sisk-WPLN

Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada said on Tuesday he plans to step down from his position. 

Casada's decision comes hours after the House Republican Caucus cast an unprecedented 45-24 no-confidence vote in Casada, after racist and lewd text messages between him and his former chief of staff were leaked to the media. 

"When I return to town on June 3, I will meet with Caucus leadership to determine the best date for me to resign as Speaker," Casada said.

He said he wants to help facilitate "a smooth transition." 

Up until Tuesday, Casada's next step was unclear. Right after Monday's vote, Casada issued a statement saying he was disappointed but that he was going to work to regain the confidence of his colleagues. 

But his statement was met with pushback.  Gov. Bill Lee said he was prepared to call for a special session if Casada decided not to step down, and House Republican leadership issued a joint statement publicly calling for Casada's resignation.

On Tuesday, Lee said Casada "made the right decision."

Casada's counterpart in the Senate, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, praised his decision to step aside.

Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) made the statement below following Speaker Glen Casada announcing his intent to resign:

"Speaker Casada announcing his intent to resign is the right decision for the legislature, the Republican Party and the state. I commend him for it. Now we move forward. I am committed to working with leadership in the House to help restore the trust that has been lost in any way I can."

Casada has served nearly 20 years in the state House of Representatives and has been a top leader for more than a decade.

He became speaker last January, following the retirement of Nashville Republican Beth Harwell.

When Casada joined the legislature, it was still run by Democrats, and he has been one of the architects of the Republican Party's nearly three-quarters majority in the state House of Representatives.

Casada has also assisted in the recruitment and strategies of dozens of Republican lawmakers.

But he's also been dogged by questions about his personal life. While running for House majority leader in 2016, Casada publicly denied rumors that he had an extramarital affair. Casada has since divorced, and in an interview with WPLN shortly before he was formally named speaker, Casada said he was willing to face scrutiny about his personal life.

"You don't see me hide," Casada said. "My life is an open life, and just watch how I live."

But after texts were leaked to the media in which Casada and his now-former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, traded lewd remarks, the scrutiny came back.

The messages were sent in the summer of 2016 and where obtained last week by The Tennessean. The messages show Casada egging the aide on as he brags about a sexual encounter in a restaurant bathroom, and other such exchanges.

"Like father, like son," Cothren wrote in one message about his personal life, indicating the close relationship between the two men.

The leaks also included messages obtained by NewsChannel 5 in which Cothren disparaged African Americans. Only one of those went to Casada, though it's not clear if he responded.

Casada apologized for the lewd texts, calling them embarrassing, but insisted that he's changed since then, and he attempted to reassure other Republicans that no more damaging information would come out. 

Earlier this month, when asked why he was not stepping down despite Republicans and Democrats asking him to do so, Casada told reporters “It's important that I stay because if two texts run someone out of office, then there is no one qualified. We've got members all across the community that have done things that are not excusable and they are still in leadership roles."  

This is a developing story.

Chas joined WPLN in 2015 after eight years with The Tennessean, including more than five years as the newspaper's statehouse reporter.Chas has also covered communities, politics and business in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Chas grew up in South Carolina and attended Columbia University in New York, where he studied economics and journalism. Outside of work, he's a dedicated distance runner, having completed a dozen marathons
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.
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