State Reps Sam Whitson and Glen Casada, who both represent portions of Williamson County in the Tennessee House of Representatives, shared their thoughts with the Home Page Wednesday over the recently announced re-election bid of Rep. David Byrd, who in 2018 faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.
Who is David Byrd and what are the accusations against him?
A former teacher and basketball coach at Wayne County High School, David Byrd was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2014 representing District 71, which sits just east of Mt. Pleasant.
In 2018, Byrd was accused of sexual misconduct by three women, all of whom alleged the misconduct occurred when they were teenagers more than 30 years ago. At the time, then 28 year-old Byrd was their basketball coach.
First reported by News 4, the women allege Byrd inappropriately touched them and made sexually suggestive remarks in the mid 1980s. The three women were 15 and 16 at the time of the allegations.
Byrd announces his intention to run for re-election
In a surprise announcement, Byrd revealed this week he would be seeking re-election after all, following months of the accused lawmaker saying otherwise after surmounting pressure from protesters and his House colleagues.
Even as recently as January of this year, Byrd maintained he would not seek re-election, citing the desire to not “go back on [his] word.”
“Over the past several months, I have been overwhelmed by the good wishes and requests of hundreds of constituents asking me to continue to serve them in the Tennessee House,” Byrd said in a statement reported by Wayne County News. “Having prayed about this decision, Sherry and I are in agreement with them. With the Coronavirus Pandemic in full force, I have learned the importance of having an experienced legislator to answer the calls, texts, and emails of numerous concerned constituents.”
The quick turnaround did not go unnoticed by Williamson County’s House representatives, with Rep. Whitson condemning Byrd’s decision to go back on his pledge.
“[It’s] obvious he did not consider the victims of his sexual assaults when he made this decision”
“I’m very disappointed that Representative Byrd went back on his word to the Republican Caucus,” Whitson wrote in a message to the Home Page. “I called on him earlier to resign for the good of our General Assembly. Now it is up to the citizens of his district to decide if he reflects the values expected of a legislator serving the people of Tennessee.
“[It’s] obvious he did not even consider the victims of his sexual assaults when he made this decision. I keep hoping this decision to run again is some kind of April Fool’s joke.”
On the other hand, State Rep. Glen Casada said it would be best to let voters have the ultimate decision, rather than House members force Byrd’s hand.
“It is dangerous when we allow an allegation to equal a verdict of guilt,” Casada wrote. “[Byrd] will stand before the voters - let’s let them decide.”