A press release from Democratic candidate for the 40th District State Rep. Seat Gayla Hendrix this week criticizing her opponent, incumbent State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, for a recent vote has elicited a response from Weaver.
Weaver was apparently one of two lawmakers to vote against Jeremy Durham's expulsion from the state legislature Tuesday. Durham, a Republican from Franklin, was expelled by a vote of 70-2.
Durham faced allegations that he used his position to sexually harass or have inappropriate sexual contact with 22 women. He contended, however, that he had been given no chance to defend himself against the allegations.
“Today, Terri Lynn Weaver voted to excuse (Durham's) sexual aggression and enable his unacceptable behavior, his mistreatment of others, and his repeated breaches of sworn duty as a Tennessee lawmaker,” Hendrix' release reads: “Disturbingly, Representative Weaver was one of two legislators who voted to allow him to complete his term and receive his pension, even in light of all the allegations. She voted to excuse his sexual aggression and enable his unacceptable behavior, his mistreatment of others, and his repeated breaches of sworn duty as a Tennessee lawmaker,” the document continued.
“Terri Lynn talks a good line about strong morals and family values, but where were those morals and values earlier today when she stood with a sexual predator instead of the overwhelming and bipartisan majority of her peers in the Tennessee House of Representatives and voters across the state?
“Terri Lynn’s support of Jeremy Durham is detestable, sickening, and a slap in the face of everyone who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Her vote to allow him to remain in the legislature and collect a lifetime pension is evidence of her willingness to be fiscally careless with Tennessee tax dollars. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, I know first-hand the kind of trauma the 22 women in the report experienced. Her insensitivity to these women - the threats and intimidation they experienced - is proof that she has neither the moral conviction nor the strength of character the voters of District 40 deserve from our elected representative.”
Weaver told the Review that while she does not condone the sort of behavior Durham is accused of, she felt that he should have been given the opportunity to defend himself.
"I did not defend his bad actions,” Weaver said. “I defended the process of law. I defended Justice. The procedures involved in the process of expulsion are paramount, and I believe those procedures were compromised today. In order to protect everyone, even bad actors, due process must be a priority. No complaints were ever filed against Rep. Durham. After today's episode, any member can be expelled on rumors or hearsay without facing ones accusers -- this puts justice on a very slippery slope."
Durham is the first legislator to be expelled from the General Assembly by his colleagues since then-Rep. Robert Fisher, who was removed on a 92-1 vote in 1980. The Elizabethton Republican had been convicted of bribery for asking for a bribe to kill a bill.
The only other time sitting lawmakers were ousted from the statehouse was in 1866, when six lawmakers refused to attend an 1866 special legislative session called by then-Gov. William "Parson" Brownlow after the end of the Civil War.