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Tennessee governor to call special session to replace embattled GOP House speaker

Updated 9:19 AM ET, Sun June 16, 2019

Washington (CNN) - Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee said Saturday that he will call a special legislative session to replace GOP House Speaker Glen Casada, who announced he was resigning last month amid reports he and his former chief of staff used racist and sexually explicit language in text messages.

"I've spoken with many of the folks in the legislature and we've agreed that it's time to move forward," Lee said during an annual dinner hosted by the Tennessee Republican Party, according to CNN affiliate WSMV. "The best way to do that is to go ahead and call a session and name a date so we can go ahead and start making plans to get a new leader."

Casada is expected to resign from his position as House speaker on August 2, according to WSMV, who also quoted Lee as saying the special session would probably begin a few weeks later.

Casada announced in late May he was stepping down after resisting pressure to do so over a scandal surrounding his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, who resigned earlier that month. Local media reports said Cothren sent racist text messages, attempted to frame a protester and sent sexually explicit messages to interns. Casada had defended Cothren in interviews and dismissed reports of his own participation in sexual and derogatory messages with Cothren as "locker room talk" -- employing a phrase used by President Donald Trump used to describe his vulgar language in the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape.

Last month, the Tennessee House Republican Caucus approved a "no confidence" resolution for the outgoing House speaker in a closed-door meeting, according to CNN affiliate WKRN-TV. The House Democratic Caucus called his actions "unbecoming and disrespectful" and demanded he leave office.

Following the Republican meeting, Casada appeared unwilling to step down, and Lee said he was prepared to call a special session if the speaker didn't resign.


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