NASHVILLE, Tennessee – After approximately three hours, House Republican Caucus members emerged from a closed meeting and announced that a secret ballot resulted in a 45-24 vote of no confidence in Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin).
The meeting was held at the 21cMuseum Hotel on 2nd Avenue in downtown Nashville, just a few blocks from the offices of the Tennessee legislature. Many legislators were seen walking from the Cordell Hull Building to the hotel.
As they approached the front door of the hotel, legislators were met with about 10 protesters, at least one of whom was wearing a Williamson County Democratic Party shirt and another who wore a Rutherford County Democratic Party shirt, in addition to Justin Jones who was arrested earlier this year for assaulting Speaker Casada.
The caucus reserved a large meeting room in the basement of the hotel, the door to which was manned by a legislative staffer. With the rental of the meeting room by the GOP Caucus, the hotel general manager said it included the entire floor. As such, all media and protesters were asked to leave prior to the start of the meeting at 2:30 p.m. The news was not received well by members of the media, as they pushed back against the general manager.
For the next three hours, members of the media, for the most part, stood watch in the hallway at the top of the stairs leading to the basement floor along as two leadership staff members gently kept anyone from going down to the lower level.
Meanwhile, protesters wandered in and out. At one point, what appeared to be the Speaker’s car was located on the back side of the hotel on 3rd Avenue, where several of the protesters were waiting, although the car left without any evidence of Casada.
Eventually, someone in the media learned that the House GOP members were leaving the meeting room, which started a flurry of activity as everyone pushed to get in a position to learn the final outcome.
The few members to come up the stairs first walked past the media to exit through the front entrance of the hotel.
That is, until House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton (R-Cookeville), who had the task of running the meeting, came down the hall. Lamberth announced that they would meet with media outside.
The announcement of the 45-24 no confidence vote was made in an impromptu press conference held on the sidewalk just outside the front entrance of the hotel by Leader Lamberth.
Media pummeled questions at both Lamberth and Sexton for approximately 10 minutes, during which they revealed:
- A resolution, prepared by Representative Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) was presented for the Caucus to vote on, although it was amended to make what was apparently a technical correction in the last paragraph.
- The ballot was secret.
- No other votes of significance, such as censure, were taken up by the Caucus.
- All of the allegations that have been made over the past several weeks were discussed.
- The Ethics Committee, of which Lamberth is a member, is not conducting an investigation at this time, as no formal complaint has been made, although an advisory opinion was “requested by someone,” according to Lamberth.
- The House Republican Caucus vote “sent a clear message,” relayed Lamberth, that sexist, racist and similar behaviors is not acceptable in leadership, the House or anywhere.
- The House Republican Caucus has no power to remove the Speaker, elected by the entire House membership, from the leadership position or his elected position in the House.
- After reviewing the state constitution and legal cases, Lamberth said it was “murky at best,” as to whether a Speaker of the House of Representatives could be removed.
- At the end of meeting, Sexton said Casada spoke for about 30 seconds to say that the Caucus that the vote has advised him, and he would work to regain support of members over the coming months.
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.