In the past few months, you may have heard Glen Casada’s name more often than not. Casada succeeded Beth Harwell as Speaker of the House in January of this year, making him the third most powerful man in the State of Tennessee under the Governor and the Speaker of the Senate. While he has only held the position for six months, he has been entangled in enough controversy to make his short tenure memorable – for all the wrong reasons.
A slew of poor decisions caused Casada’s downfall. He locked Democratic lawmakers inside the capitol chambers in an attempt to force a vote on a newly formed committee to review a controversial bill that would reexamine Medicaid funding. Casada had not appointed a single Democrat to the committee, a move that signaled his true intent for the bill’s consideration.
He defended his Chief of Staff, Cade Cothren, when news coverage of racist text messages emerged. Cothren even altered an email from an African-American activist who had asked to meet with the Speaker. Casada continued to defend Cothren when the highly paid Chief of Staff admitted to using cocaine inside a legislative office building.
Casada’s support of Cothren couldn’t hold together when it was revealed that Casada and Cothren exchanged sexually explicit text messages about women, some of whom worked as interns and legislative aids in Casada’s office. Initially, Casada denied the messages. However, he later admitted that he had indeed sent the messages.
Lastly, Casada was accused of attempting to influence the House Ethics Committee proceeding concerning the scandals that engulfed him.
On May 20th, the Republican caucus submitted a vote of no confidence in response to Casada’s leadership. The next day, Casada announced that he would resign. It was welcome relief to Democrats who arguably never had confidence in the Speaker and for Republicans who were now ready to move past the continued controversy. What happened next is a break from the norm. Casada not only failed to announce his resignation date, he went on a European vacation with not a word about what would happen when he returned. That left the general public in waiting, unsure of the stability of the State House’s political leadership.
Recently, Casada announced that he will indeed resign on August 2nd, his 60th birthday and a long two and a half months after news of his moral, if not illegal, shortcomings that prompted him to initially announce his resignation. The prolonged resignation date is not an innocuous decision, and it isn’t even an uncanny birthday present. It allows him and others time to run for the seat that he will vacate – at least that’s what some leaders of the GOP have begun to speculate. Although the House rules are clear on the succession of the Speaker, some think that a special election would prompt the appointment of a Speaker handpicked by Casada.
When trust in government is already low, actions by our elected officials that fall well outside the realm of acceptable behavior are especially despicable. Casada continues to show what we are becoming accustomed to at the national level. We should all expect more of one another.