Tennessee lawmakers have voted to oust embattled state Rep. Jeremy Durham, making him the first member expelled in 36 years.
Lawmakers gathered Tuesday morning as the second day of the 59th special legislative session convened. Durham was not present when the 70-2 vote was cast.
Prior to leaving the Capitol though he made one last plea to his former colleagues before they voted to expel him.
“For many of you it doesn’t matter what I say, many of you will be believe I’m guilty no matter what I say and that’s okay. But there are aspects of this situation that should bother every single one of you,” Durham told lawmakers from the House floor.
Rep. Susan Lynn (R – Mt. Juliet) filed the motion Tuesday to expel Durham from his seat. After intense discussion and subsequent questioning from Rep. Mike Stewart (D – Nashville), Durham left the Capitol.
Durham’s absence from the proceedings created a lot of uncertainty on the floor as many lawmakers wanted to question him.
As part of his expulsion, Durham will no longer be eligible to receive a lifetime state pension.
Durham, age 32, has been accused of sexually harassing at least 22 women on the hill.
“These women have been through a lot and the Attorney General promised they would not be outted and I think we have obligation to live with that,” House Speaker Beth Harwell told caucus members.
The last member to be expelled from the General Assembly was then-Rep. Robert Fisher, who was ousted on a 92-1 vote in 1980. The Elizabethton Republican had been convicted of asking for a bribe to kill a bill.
“The expulsion of Durham is a good first step / but I’m concerned Harwell will move forward instead of addressing the allegations that people were retaliated against for coming forward,” Democrat Mike Stewart said after the vote came down.
An ethics complaint was also filed against House Speaker Beth Harwell Monday, accusing her of abusing her position.
Lawmakers are meeting this week in a special session to address a federal highway funding glitch that could cost the state $60 million.