They’re Off! Warren Files; Casada to Resign 

Jeff Warren, who may have been the first person, several months ago, to float a City Council candidacy for the 2019 Memphis general election, on Monday became the first candidate to pull a petition for office from the Election Commission. As he had indicated he would do, Warren, a primary care physician, is running for Position 3 in the Council's Super District 9.

And Warren, who had previously served as a member of the Memphis School Board from 2005 to 2013, has what would seem to be a blue-chip organization to steer his campaign. He has named three campaign co-chairs — 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen, Desi Franklin, and Kelly Fish, with Fish serving as campaign manager. Warren has a campaign treasury of more than $100,000 already, and a campaign treasurer in Milner Stanton. In a press release, the candidate also announced that he has a 31-member steering committee and listed the following names of supporters: Ron Belz, Joey Beckford, Andrea Bicks, Steve Cohen, Kathy Fish, Scott Fleming, George Flinn, Desi Franklin, Tom Gettlefinger, Joe Getz, Kate Gooch, Mitch Graves, Althea Greene, Shawn Hayden, Dorsey Hopson, Kashif Latif, Sara Lewis, Tom Marshall, Reginald Milton, Herman Morris, Billy Orgel, Autry Parker, Chooch Pickard, Jack Sammons, Frank Smith, Diane Thornton, Henry Turley, Jefferson Warren, Nicole Warren, A C Wharton, and Dynisha Woods.

click to enlarge Mayor Jim Strickland with - Cody and Steven Fletcher - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • Mayor Jim Strickland with Cody and Steven Fletcher

The list is, as Warren indicates, highly diverse — "a great slice of Memphis," as he puts it. "On my steering committee, I count Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, straights and LGBTs, young and old; they all have one thing in common — a love for Memphis. I look forward to all of us working together toward a healthy Memphis."

Warren, who would seem to be prepared in-depth, may well have the Position 3 race to himself, though another early-bird candidate, developer Chase Carlisle, is also expected to file for one of the Super District 9 positions, as is University of Memphis development officer Cody Fletcher, who has indicated he will run for the Position 1 seat in District 9.

The Position 1 and Position 3 seats are open, inasmuch as they are now occupied by two-term incumbents — Council Chair Kemp Conrad and Reid Hedgepeth, respectively, both of whom are term-limited and cannot run again. The incumbent in Super District 9, Position 3, is Ford Canale, who won appointment to his seat last year and later won a special election. He is expected to run again.

click to enlarge Dr. Jeff Warren at - Election Commission - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • Dr. Jeff Warren at Election Commission

Now that petitions for office in the forthcoming election are available (as of Monday), a flood of new candidacies is expected over the next several weeks. Filing deadline is noon on Thursday, June 20th, for all positions in the October 3rd Memphis municipal election. Withdrawal deadline for candidates is June 27th at noon.

• Though his initial instinct on Monday was to respond in the negative to the latest call for his resignation as speaker of the Tennessee House — this time from members of the House Republican caucus — Glen Casada (R-Franklin), has finally capitulated. He first indicated in a statement on Monday that he intended to remain in office, despite a lopsided 45-24 vote against him by his fellow House Republicans.

The last straw for Casada was Monday's caucus vote, which was followed almost immediately by a statement from Republican Governor Bill Lee that the governor would call a special session of the legislature to consider the matter of Casada's tenure if the beleaguered speaker resisted resignation. "Today, House Republicans sent a clear message," Lee said.

The vote, the governor's statement, and calls for Casada's withdrawal from other members of the Republicans' legislative leadership — including House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Senate Speaker/Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) — finally made that message clear.

As indicated, Casada's first response to the caucus vote had been one of continued resistance. "I'm disappointed in the results of today's caucus vote," the speaker said on Monday. "However, I will work the next few months to regain the confidence of my colleagues so we can continue to build on the historic conservative accomplishments of this legislative session."

That statement was supplanted on Tuesday by this one: "When I return to town on June 3rd, I will meet with caucus leadership to determine the best date for me to resign as speaker so that I can facilitate a smooth transition."

GOP House members have indicated they intend at some early point to conduct a new internal election to pick a new speaker.

Though the pressure on Casada to resign as speaker (he will presumably remain as a House member) had mounted steadily over the weeks, his ordeal is only a month old. It arose from revelations that his main aide, Cade Cothren, was guilty of multiple sexual harassments, some against interns, and of expressing racist and misogynistic attitudes in emails that came to light. Cothren also admitted having snorted cocaine on state premises and was suspected of altering a date on an email to Casada from a protester so as to make it appear that the protestor had violated a no-contact judicial order.

Though he quickly jettisoned his aide, Casada himself had become implicated in some of these issues, including a suspicion that he and Cothren had electronically spied on House members. Emails between himself and Cothren also surfaced, rife with sexist jesting and misogynistic attitudes. Casada, who had just concluded his first session as speaker, had also run afoul of criticism for having appointed state Representative David Byrd (R-Waynesboro), an accused pedophile, to an education subcommittee chairmanship.

Prior to the negative vote by his own House caucus, Casada was the subject of formal repudiations from the House Democratic Caucus and from the Legislative Black Caucus.

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