TN Politics: Cleaning House in the State Capitol

Jul 12, 2019

Credit WKNO-FM

Ahead of an Aug. 23 special session of the Tennessee General Assembly, the House Republican caucus will select their nominee to replace disgraced Speaker Glen Casada, who formally resigns his leadership position on Aug. 2. Political analyst Otis Sanford explains that it's partially an attempt to get past the scandals that have plagued the legislature and caused voters to lose confidence in their elected officials.

While Democrats are vastly outnumbered, they plan to initiate a secondary cleansing: the expulsion of Rep. David Byrd, a Waynesboro Republican, accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with three teenagers in the 1980s while he was a high school basketball coach. Byrd has denied the allegations, but Casada's flippant dismissal of the allegations (then making Byrd chairman of an education subcommittee) established that the Speaker would be reliably protective of Republicans accused of misdeeds.

This week, former Governor Bill Haslam announced that he would not be running for Sen. Lamar Alexander's seat in 2020, opening the floodgates for other potential candidates. The last election of a Senator, to replace Bob Corker, saw moderate Democrat Phil Bredesen beaten by right-wing Republican Marsha Blackburn in a state that has swung further right since the election of Donald Trump. Sandford speculates that a challenging primary might have deterred Haslam who, in another political climate, could easily be a consensus candidate. 

Finally, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland reports that he has a million dollars to spend on his reelection campaign, far exceeding the money raised by his main opponents Willie Herenton and Tami Sawyer. Sanford says we can expect to see heavy advertising as the campaign heats up.