NASHVILLE, Tennessee — After four rounds of voting, State Representative Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) won the battle to become the House Republican Caucus Speaker Select late Wednesday morning.
Sexton came out the leader, after a process of elimination of the other five candidates, with 41 votes.
Sexton is set to replace the current embattled Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin), who was himself the Speaker Select following a Republican House Caucus meeting in November 2018 and officially elected by the full House membership in January, when the Tennessee House of Representatives meets in special session on August 23.
The meeting, held in the former Supreme Court chambers in the State Capitol, was attended by 70 of the 73 Republican members of the House. As indicated near the start of the meeting, it would take 36 votes to achieve a majority.
The six candidates for Speaker, in the order that they drew at the outset of the meeting to determine when they would make their speeches, were Representatives Jay Reedy (R-Erin), Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah), Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville), Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville).
Johnson opposed Casada for the Speaker role in the November 2018 House Republican Caucus election.
Just before the meeting start time of 9 a.m., House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) asked that all of the candidates for Speaker as well as Speaker Pro-Tem meet in the adjoining office, which lasted about 10 minutes.
After the roll call, prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, the first order of business was for the House Republicans to vote, on a simple yes or not ballot, whether the vote counts would be announced for all rounds of voting. That measure passed with 45 Yes votes and 25 No votes.
Four poll watchers were assigned as was a door monitor to ensure that all members got a ballot, oversee the vote counts, were present during the voting and result reporting.
A timekeeper ensured that each candidate did not exceed a three-minute time limit, although none appeared to come close to it.
About 45 minutes in to the meeting, the ballots for the first round of voting were handed out. The ballots were counted in the adjacent office, with members of leadership, the poll watchers and staffers, and about 10 minutes later, the first round of voting was reported by Leader Lamberth:
Cameron Sexton – 18
Matthew Hill – 16
Curtis Johnson – 16
Mike Carter – 11
Ryan Williams – 8
Jay Reedy – 1
Round 2 of voting wrapped up about 20 minutes later, and the remaining candidates were again called into the adjacent office.
When leadership and the poll watchers returned to the stage and podium, Leader Lamberth announced the following results:
Curtis Johnson – 19
Cameron Sexton – 17
Matthew Hill – 16
Mike Carter and Ryan Williams – tie
While the vote count wasn’t announced, it could be deduced that both Carter and Williams received 10 votes each.
Leader Lamberth announced that the last two volunteered to take themselves out of the race, which received a small round of applause.
After Round 3, the vote results were:
Cameron Sexton – 27
Curtis Johnson – 23
Matthew Hill – 20
With the bottom vote getter out for Round 4, members used the same six-person ballot but selected only one of two.
Once the results were available, Sexton and Johnson along with Dunn, were called once again into the adjacent office.
When they came out for the final time after just a couple of minutes, Leader Lamberth announced that Cameron Sexton had received 41 votes, leaving Curtis Johnson with 29.
Lamberth then introduced the victor for the first time of many as “Speaker Sexton.” As the Republican Leader in the House, Lamberth said that the process showed a strong caucus, adding that going through something like this is tough.
In addition to the Special Session called by Governor Lee for August 23, during which the entire House membership will vote on the new Speaker, Leader Lamberth said there will be a Republican Caucus meeting on August 22 at 4 p.m.
The specific purpose of the meeting will be to conduct an election to fill the role of Caucus Chair, currently held by the now Speaker Select Cameron Sexton, along with any other business.
Speaker-Select Sexton gave a very short acceptance speech, the video of which can be watched here and the transcript read here:
I look forward to working with every single one of you to continue what we’ve been doing and achieving great things. Thank you to all the candidates that ran, Matthew, Mike, Ryan, Curtis, Jay, myself. As we go through this, I just like to say thank you, Godspeed in getting home and let’s look forward to moving forward and continuing that direction.
Following the election, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden released the following statement on the House Republican Caucus Speaker nominee:
“I’ve known Cameron for more than 20 years, beginning when we both worked for the TNGOP. He has been one of my closest friends in politics and an absolutely wonderful person. The House Caucus made a great choice. Cameron has always put people before politics and I look forward to his leadership of Tennessee.”
Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) also made a statement following the election of Rep. Cameron Sexton as the Republican nominee for Speaker of the House:
“I congratulate Cameron Sexton on becoming the Republican nominee for House Speaker. Today’s election marks a new beginning for the House and the entire General Assembly. I look forward to working with Cameron Sexton to build upon our success as a majority and secure a better future for the people of Tennessee.”
With Republicans holding 73 of the 99 House seats and the requirement that Republican Caucus members vote for the Speaker Select, it is assured that Cameron Sexton will be elected as Speaker during the August 23 Special Session.
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.