Tennessee House Ousts Lawmaker by 70-2 Vote

Tennessee House Ousts Lawmaker by 70-2 Vote



The Tennessee House of Representatives ousted a lawmaker on Sept. 13, 2016, by a vote of 70-2. This occurred because at least 22 women had accused him of harassment.

The expulsion of Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham was the first to pass in 36 years. It last occurred in 1980, when the Tennessee House ejected Rep. Robert Fisher with a 92-1 vote. Fisher was ousted after he was convicted for asking for a bribe to kill a bill.

Durham had spent four years in office and in that time, a minimum of 22 women accused him of inappropriate sexual contact. This was revealed by the investigation of the attorney general.

These allegations began in January 2016. At that time, three women told The Tennessean newspaper about inappropriate text messages they received from Durham. In spite of this, they did not file complaints because they feared a penalty. The Tennessean reported that they thought it would be fruitless to do so.

One of these women described the texts Durham sent her. The other two women gave the newspaper copies of the texts from Durham. The Tennessean confirmed that these texts were from the phone of the Tennessee lawmaker.

These texts occurred at:

  • 10 p.m. where Durham wrote that he missed one of the girls.
  • 1:30 a.m. with Durham asking the same woman for pictures.

This woman said that the complaint was supposed to be anonymous, but someone would have seen her as she left the complaint office.

The second woman, who received texts from Durham, stated that she needed to be at the statehouse to work. She said that, at first, he wanted to speak professionally, and it escalated to a barrage of Facebook and text messages requesting meetings at bars. A 1:00 a.m., a text from Durham even asked her for pictures.

Both of these women are in their 20s.

Despite all of these accusations, Durham related that he did not remember sending even one message after The Tennessean had described the messages to him.

To quote Durham from an email: “Not having seen the texts, not knowing who the other party to the conversation is, when they were sent, what exactly they say, whether I was responding or initiating the text stream, it is simply impossible to respond.”

He said, on top of that, The Tennessean brought only anonymous allegations. The investigative report alleged that in 2014, the Tennessee Rep. offered a 20-year-old college student a full pack of beer. He then proceeded to have sex with her in his office.

Another woman termed him, “Pants Candy” because he had once removed an unwrapped dirty mint from his pocket. He again proceeded to suggestively offer it to her, the lobbyist said. Durham said the report should not consider these incidents as sexual harassment.

In 2013, he was investigated for drug fraud. Although, the grand jury refused to indict him.

Beth Harwell asked Attorney General Herbert Slatery III to begin an open investigation. This lasted for six months. Although the Tennessee lawmaker and his attorney tried to stop the release of the report, they failed.

The report bashed the Tennessee lawmaker, and he denied all accusations. At one point, Durham’s offices were moved because Slatery thought the Tennessee lawmaker was a threat to unsuspecting women.

The accusations and investigations led up to September 13, which was the day that the Tennessee House of Representatives ousted the lawmaker in a 70-2 vote.

With all the accusations and findings against him, he went to Tennessee Rep. William Lamberth, a former prosecutor, and fired questions at him, in response to the report.

The Tennessean reports that Durham spoke well. He did not directly answer questions and appeared agitated.

The Tennessee Rep. said that the procedure should be treated as a trial, even though no charges or complaints were needed to carry it out. He issued words that denied the allegations. He said the report was hearsay and purported that the harassment complaints had passed the 180-day statute of limitations.

At one point, the Tennessee lawmaker said that nobody wanted him to reveal what he had in his black binder.

House members, like Glen Casada, continuously stressed the anonymity of the victims.

Durham defended himself, as his colleagues questioned him for an hour. But he did not stay for the vote. He swiftly exited the Tennessee building with reporters following him.

Still, the representatives voted. However, up to 12 members did not vote. In the end, the Tennessee House ousted Durham, with the 70-2 vote.

This was eight months after Republicans and Democrats had said that Durham should resign. He did resign from his House Whip leadership post and took a two-week hiatus.

The Tennessee lawmaker is now only eligible for his state pension if he assumes a state job in the next seven years, said House Clerk Joe McCord. The ex-Tennesse Representative had his name removed from his desk after he left. Durham’s desk now remains empty because the Tennessee House ousted the lawmaker with a 70-2 vote.

By Osveen Funwi
Edited by Jeanette Smith

THE TENNESSEAN: Jeremy Durham expelled from Tennessee House in 70-2 vote
abcNEWS: Tennessee House Expels Lawmaker Accused in Harassment Case
THE TENNESSEAN: Tennessean investigation finds inappropriate text messages

Image Courtesy of Adam Fagen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License