Senate leader won't call for TN House speaker's resignation

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's top state Senate leader on Thursday said he won't ask for embattled House Speaker Glen Casada to resign from his leadership position amid mounting scandals surrounding Casada's office.

However, Republican Senate Speaker Randy McNally also told reporters that it was "displeasing" to read about recently released text messages involving Casada and a former top aide making lewd remarks about women. And while McNally said it's up to GOP-dominant House members to decide if Casada should remain their leader, the Republican added that Casada likely would be asked to step aside if he was a senator.

McNally also appeared to chide Casada's description of the text messages as "locker room talk," saying the General Assembly has taken steps to ensure respect for all people.

Similarly, Tennessee's U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn also declined to weigh in on whether Casada should continue to serve as House speaker.

Blackburn served in the Tennessee General Assembly between 1999 and 2003, leaving before Casada took office in the House. She was elected to the U.S. Senate last November. The two reside in the same powerful GOP-dominant legislative district just south of Nashville, where Gov. Bill Lee also lives.

"A decision on whether he steps down or not, that will be for the House Republican Caucus who elected him to make that decision. And then his service depends on the people who elected him and they're the ones that will make that decision," Blackburn said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. "The things that I've read, the comments, the texts, are pretty disgusting."

Separately, a handful of Republican lawmakers have called for Casada to step down as speaker, as well as Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups upset with the series of text message scandals that have ranged from Casada's former chief of staff sending racist messages, accusations of evidence tampering and Casada participating in sexually explicit text messages with his former key staffer.

Casada has pushed back against calls to resign the speakership in recent days. Instead, he released an apology and a four-part "action plan" on Wednesday promising it would help regain trust from his members.

House speakers in Tennessee serve two years before seeking reelection. Casada has been speaker since January.

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