The newly minted House Republican supermajority replaced its second in command Monday, months after the representative threatened to challenge House Speaker Beth Harwell for her leadership post.
The caucus voted via secret ballot to replaced Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny — a Republican who said he felt “sidelined” by GOP leadership. Republicans replaced him with Rep. Curtis Johnson, a Clarksville businessman who has largely stayed behind the scenes.
“We should all remember that our caucus tent is big enough to have different opinions,” Johnson said to members at the House Republican Caucus organization meeting to elect leadership. “We can have constructive criticism, but we all need to work together to move our caucus forward.”
In asking voters to reelect him, Matheny pointed to ways he wants to make the job a “frontline working position and not just a lazy backwater like it used to be years ago,” he told members before the vote. Better coordination with the Senate over legislation while maintaining the chamber’s autonomy are key areas the position should focus on, he said.
In August, Matheny considered running against Harwell for the gavel. Matheny, who differed with leadership on some controversial legislation like allowing gun owners to stow guns in vehicles parked on work property, had said he felt sidelined by leadership and was underutilized. Weeks later, Matheny backed off plans to run for the post and instead seek reelection.
Republicans now make up 70 seats of the state House, giving the party a supermajority, which allows the caucus to set rules and pass legislation without the help of the 28 Democrats and one Republican-leaning Independent in the chamber.
Harwell, of Nashville, was reelected to House speaker unanimously on a voice vote, as was House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga. Members also elected Rep. Glen Casada as the caucus chairman, a post he held prior to losing the speaker’s slot to Harwell in 2010. He replaces Rep. Debra Maggart who lost her bid for reelection in the August primary.
“It is clear this Republican Megamajority is ready to move with common sense, conservative initiatives and I’m ready to lead them,” said Casada in an emailed statement.
Republicans elected their peers to the following additional leadership positions: Dennis Powers as caucus vice-chairman; Kevin Brooks as assistant Republican leader; Cameron Sexton as Republican whip; Vance Dennis as Republican floor leader, David Alexander as caucus secretary; Joshua Evans as caucus treasurer and Jeremy Durham as assistant floor leader.
Six Republicans elected to the Fiscal Review Committee include Reps. Jeremy Faison, Matthew Hill, Pat Marsh, Mark Pody, Mark White and Tim Wirgau. Rep. Curry Todd, who long held a spot on the committee, lost his attempt at reelection. He was one of three absent from Monday’s caucus meeting, citing an upcoming surgery. Also absent were Reps. Joshua Evans and Rep. Dennis Roach.
House Democrats intend to elect their caucus leadership next month.