Johnson City Press: Hill will run for House speaker following Casada's resignation
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Hill will run for House speaker following Casada's resignation

David Floyd • Updated May 22, 2019 at 5:27 PM

Deputy Speaker Matthew Hill jokes that the next speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives needs to be boring.

“Right now we need some boring,” he said. “We need some boring, trust me, when it comes to the speaker’s office.”

Hill will seek the Republican Party’s nomination for the speakership following news that Speaker Glen Casada will resign after facing scrutiny over sexually explicit text messages sent between Casada and his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren.

“We’re going to have a vacancy,” Hill said. “That vacancy needs to be filled with someone who has demonstrated experience, knowledge of the process and strong conservative principles, and I believe I’ve done all of those things.”

Hill made the announcement during a meeting of the Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday morning. He said he’s been approached by other members asking him to consider running for the role and is in the process of gathering support from colleagues.

“You’d be surprised how many phone calls you can make in a four-and-a-half-hour drive back from Nashville,” he said. “Yesterday, I made a lot of phone calls and got a very positive reception.”

Rep. Micah Van Huss said he’s also made calls on behalf of Hill and thinks he has a “very good chance” of ascending to the role of speaker, a promotion that he believes would be beneficial to Washington County.

He also said Hill would be a counterweight to a “culture in Nashville” in which he said about a third of the legislature goes out and drinks alcohol every night.

“We need somebody who doesn’t go out and drink every night, who doesn’t sleep around, like some legislators do, so I’m very hopeful with Matthew should he become the speaker,” Van Huss said. “We need a moral person in that position.”

Casada announced plans to resign after members of the Republican caucus voted 45-24 in a secret ballot on Monday that they have no confidence in him as speaker. Hill and Van Huss joined the majority in voting no confidence. To his knowledge, Hill said every member of the legislative delegation in Northeast Tennessee voted no confidence.

After allegations surfaced, the two legislators initially indicated in early May that they would continue to support the embattled speaker, but noted Wednesday that their opinions changed as they learned more about the situation.

“What came out during that meeting that disturbed me was the coverup of not knowing that he knew about the text messages when he did, and that was why I cast my vote for no confidence,” Van Huss said. “The coverup is what concerned me the most.”

As chair of the Tennessee House Ethics Committee, Hill said he didn’t initially feel comfortable stating a public opinion on the matter until as many facts as possible became available.

“We took what he said and the evidence that was before us, and it just became at that point obvious that we needed to move forward and move on,” he said to media before the meeting.

In one case in July 2016, according to the Tennessean, Cothren shared a photo with Casada of an upside down woman standing next to a pole. Casada said, “What about some pole dancing!!!” Cothren called the woman “wife material” and Casada asked, “Can I just touch????”

“Speaker Casada did admit to those text messages that you’ve read about, but more than that, there was some deep concern that he had attempted to cover it up and not been 100% truthful,” Hill said during remarks to the chamber. “I know that that’s what led to the vote of no confidence by almost two-thirds of the House Republican caucus.”

Aside from himself, Hill estimated there are four other representatives who have expressed interest in the speakership position. He believes the House should have a decision finalized by the end of June.

“My goal is to restore trust in the House of Representatives, in the speaker’s office,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of time, it’s going to take a lot of work, but I’ve never been afraid of working hard.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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