Inside the House Republican’s first caucus meeting of this year’s legislative session, Glen Casada began to brag.
Republicans had picked up one seat in the political off-season after Democrat Charles Curtiss left to lead the Tennessee County Commissioners Association. The White County Commission replaced him with a Republican running for state Senate, bumping up the caucus’ supermajority in the 99-member chamber by one more.
“Seventy-one. We just have 28 more to go,” said Casada, the Republican Caucus Chairman, to laughs and cheers from the dozens of House Republicans meeting in the Old Supreme Court chambers Tuesday for the first time this year.
The caucus calculates that it raised about $270,000 last year for next set of elections — nearly a $50,000 increase from the last non-election year of 2011.
The 2011 number is fuzzy, though, because back then the House and Senate Republicans were raising money together. The caucus raised $168,000 on its own that year, according to campaign finance reports, but also claims credit for about $55,000 that landed in the joint “Republican Caucus” war chest, according to a caucus spokesman. Meaning, they believe they raised roughly $223,000 that year.
The two chambers' fundraising efforts have since gone separate ways after the great Speaker showdown at the end of last year’s legislative session. Although speakers in both houses have said they’re putting the past behind them, discontent among Republicans has not dissipated within the massive caucus.
To dozens of his fellow Republicans at the meeting, former Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny frowned on failed efforts to bring the federal delegation down to the Capitol for a bilateral session. He said he didn’t want to start the legislative year with disparaging words, but insisted “we could have tried harder as a body” to get the delegation here, and suggested the caucus ought to “require” the federal lawmakers to meet them. The next day he briefly repeated that desire on the House floor.
Despite the rub and the expected party disputes this session over issues like Common Core and school vouchers, leadership is still hungry to add more Republicans to their rank. Although their recruiting efforts are going well, Casada told the caucus, keep your eyes open for sharp folks who could run for state office.
“I’m serious when I say 28 seats to go,” he said.