Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, photographed at his desk in the Tennessee House of Representatives chambers Jan. 12, is being investigated by the FBI. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Caveat emptor is a Latin phrase that translates to ‘‘let the buyer beware’’ and legally means a buyer or purchaser is alone responsible for performing due diligence before closing a deal.
The same principle can apply to electoral politics.
Take, for instance, former Speaker of the Tennessee House and current state Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin. Casada was dethroned in 2019 after the shortest term served by any speaker in history after getting a ‘‘no-confidence’’ vote from his own Republican caucus, amid a scandal involving racist and sexist texts with his chief of staff.
He announced in November he won’t run for reelection, ending a 20-year legislative career, but Casada isn’t done with politics. Casada is currently running for Williamson County clerk, a position that pays $133,000 and brings responsibility for issuing business and marriage licenses and motor vehicle registrations, among other duties.
Here’s the thing: Americans love a second act. Show remorse for bad behavior, make amends and you might not only get another bite at the electoral apple but engender sympathy among your constituents.
Witness former Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who was busted in 2009 for an extramarital affair marked by a bizarre cover-up story in which he claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was, in fact, in Argentina with his paramour. After a political hiatus in which he said he discovered Buddhism and focused on his Christianity, he was elected to Congress in 2013 and served three terms.
In Tennessee, the late Tommy Burnett was not only reelected in 1984 while serving time in prison for failing to file federal taxes but also continued to serve as House majority leader. Burnett, a Democrat, thrived despite his faults because he was a charming and funny rogue who also worked to pass nursing home reform, among other pieces of legislation.
Then there’s Casada. Since getting ejected from House leadership, Casada could have spent the last few years soul searching. He could have used his considerable war chest to publicly atone with contributions to feel good organizations—food banks in his home, Williamson County, for instance.
Publicly, he’s been quiet. But frequently his name surfaces in less than savory stories. Former Tennessee Republican Party Chair Robin Smith, who resigned recently, apparently referred to Casada in federal court filings over the phony consulting firm Phoenix Solutions. Casada wasn’t named, but documents described “Individual 1” as serving “as Speaker of the House from in or around January 2019 until in or around August 2019” and boy, that narrows things down.
He’s scrapped with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, accusing members of “bias” after they subpoenaed him as part of an investigation into a political action committee, although the same group left him off lightly in 2020 during an investigation of his campaign finances.
Another retiring lawmaker, GOP Rep. Kent Calfee of Kingston, told Lookout reporter Sam Stockard he overheard Casada make an offer in 2019 to get a National Guard promotion for Rep. John Mark Windle in exchange for Windle’s favorable vote on school voucher legislation.
Casada’s home and office were raided by the FBI in January 2021. Whether that’s about Phoenix Solutions or the voucher vote remains to be seen—or whether the raids bring any consequences to Casada. Other legislators have admitted they’ve been subpoenaed by the feds as part of an ongoing corruption probe but Casada has kept his own counsel.
Casada has been charged with nothing. He may not be subpoenaed, nor may he be indicted or charged with improprieties or illegalities. He may, in fact, be a victim of circumstances, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people.
He may deserve a second chance and he may turn out to be well-suited to serve as a county clerk. Or, based on the patterns in his career, he may not. Given his long track record in office, voters are surely familiar with Casada and they will be the ones to decide.
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