Tennessee’s Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton is facing growing calls to resign amid reports he has lied to his constituents.
The Tennessee state legislature has been under increased national scrutiny since a school shooting in Nashville three weeks ago, when a shooter killed three children and three adults. Republicans, who have a supermajority trifecta in the state House, Senate, and governor’s office, have repeatedly rejected attempts to increase gun control measures.
Things took a turn for the worse when the House voted to expel two Democrats, both Black men, for allegedly violating chamber rules when they joined thousands of pro–gun control protesters in the Capitol building. One white Democrat who also joined the demonstration was not expelled. Both of the two expelled, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, were ultimately reinstated by their district councils.
In the week since their reappointment, Sexton has come under fire after reporter Judd Legum learned the speaker secretly purchased a $600,000 house in Nashville, where he and his family live year-round. Nashville is not in the district Sexton represents.
But Sexton claims to live in a condo in Crossville, a city two hours from the state capital and within the boundaries of his district. And as Legum reported in his newsletter, Popular Information, Sexton has for years claimed daily reimbursements of about $313, which are paid by taxpayers and intended to pay for lodging for state representatives who reside 50 miles or more from Nashville.
Since then, calls for Sexton to step down have mounted rapidly. Thousands of people have signed an online petition for Sexton to resign. The petition, which was started by the Christian social justice group Faithful America, had nearly 19,000 signatures at the time of this writing. “Democracy, racial justice, and gun safety are under joint assault in Tennessee,” the petition said. “We call on Speaker Sexton to resign for his shameful and unlawful power grab.”
Officials from the Cumberland County and Putnam County Democratic Parties, both in the speaker’s district, have also called for him to resign. “Even if it’s determined Sexton merely violated the ‘spirit’ of the residency requirement, his absence from the district means he and his family don’t experience the consequences of his actions,” said Anna Quillen, chair of the Cumberland County Democratic Party, in a statement issued Friday.
She pointed out that schools in her county already receive some of the lowest state funding per student and are likely to receive even less due to a measure that Sexton backed. Sexton’s daughter reportedly goes to private school in Nashville, meaning that his family will never experience the effects of that legislation.
Over the weekend, Jones cited reports on MSNBC when calling out Sexton and other Republican legislators “who are not doing the people’s work, particularly when it comes to poor people and rural people.”