VOL. 131 | NO. 20 | Thursday, January 28, 2016
Durham Removes Self From House GOP Caucus Amid Investigation
ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State Rep. Jeremy Durham on Wednesday withdrew from the Tennessee House Republican Caucus amid an investigation into sexual harassment allegations.
The Franklin Republican previously resigned as House majority whip, though he has turned back demands from other GOP leaders that he step down from his House seat.
Durham has vigorously denied any wrongdoing and has pledged to "aggressively" seek re-election. But he was subdued when he addressed his colleagues on Wednesday morning, telling them he did not want his situation to become a distraction to the caucus.
"I'm going to make sure I'm doing everything right on my end, and talk to my wife and my doctor," Durham said.
The move follows news reports this week that women working at the Legislative office complex had received inappropriate text messages from the lawmaker and that two women had complained to House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick about Durham's behavior. None of the women filed formal complaints.
House Speaker Beth Harwell told the caucus that she has spoken to one of the women to find out why she didn't take any official steps against Durham.
"I have specifically asked her to understand how she could be more comfortable coming forward and filing a formal complaint," said Harwell, who added that she is seeking advice from outside experts to revise the sexual-harassment policy in the House.
House Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes has called for Durham's resignation from the House, while Harwell and fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam have suggested they would step down if they were in Durham's position.
Previous revelations about Durham's behavior have raised questions among fellow Republicans in the Capitol. They include that the lawmaker wrote a character reference on House letterhead in 2014 for a former youth pastor who pleaded guilty to charges of child porn possession and statuary rape of a 16-year-old parishioner.
Earlier that year, prosecutors sought charges against Durham for allegedly altering the dates on two prescriptions. A grand jury declined to charge the lawmaker.
Durham's withdrawal pre-empted an expected move by colleagues to oust him from the caucus. House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada said Durham's disassociation from makes him ineligible to vote on priorities or receive caucus campaign funds.
A vote on Durham's replacement as majority whip has been scheduled for Monday.
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