Sen. Blackburn silent on state House speaker's fate

Robert Houk • Updated May 10, 2019 at 9:06 AM

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., declined Thursday to weigh in on calls for state Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, to step down as Tennessee House speaker following his handling of inappropriate text messages sent by his former chief of staff.

The state’s junior senator told reporters on a conference call from her office in Washington that she would leave Casada’s fate to “the House Republican Caucus and the people of his district who elected him.” Blackburn served as a member of the Tennessee General Assembly before being elected to Congress in 2002.

Democrats and some Republican members are raising questions about how Casada handled complaints against former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren, who resigned Monday following allegations of sexist and racist comments. The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville reported Cothren, 32, had a history of sending sexually explicit text messages and making inappropriate advances toward former interns, lobbyists and campaign staffers.

Some of those text messages were shared with Casada.

Other news sources have reported Cothren also made racist comments, including calling black people “idiots.”

Blackburn, who was elected the first woman to represent Tennessee in the U.S. Senate in 2018, said she found the comments attributed to Casada and his former aid to be “pretty disgusting.” Even so, the senator would not say if she thinks Casada should step down as speaker.

She did say the #MeToo movement has given a voice to victims of sexual harassment.

“When our daughters and granddaughters make a complaint today, they will be heard,” she said.

In other issues, Blackburn said she and her Senate colleagues heard from top immigration and border security officials this week, who are calling for more barriers, more technology and more agents to patrol the borders. She said there is a backlog of more than 8,000 refugee cases at the Southern border with a minimum two-year wait to be heard by just 400 immigration judges.

“Until we secure our borders and end drug trafficking and human trafficking, every town is a border town and every state is a border state,” Blackburn said.

The senator said she was also marking this Small Business Week by focusing on the impact small businesses have on Tennessee’s economy. She said 90% of the state’s commercial enterprises— some 603,000 — are considered small businesses.  She said many of those businesses are owned by veterans and women.

“More than 1.1 million people work at a small business in Tennessee,” she said.





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