On the eve of the election of a new House speaker, Republican lawmakers chose to Rep. Jeremy Faison as the new caucus chairman.
The East Tennessee Republican ran against three other members, including a member tied to former Speaker Glen Casada. The choice of Fairson for the third-highest position in the House appears to signal a different direction for the Republican lawmakers.
"I want to walk away from 2019 with forgiveness and restitution in our hearts and a lesson learned," Faison told his colleagues after winning the election Thursday. "And let's look forward to 2020 where we are bringing everybody back."
The position of chairman opened up when Crossville Republican Cameron Sexton was nominated by the GOP caucus for House speaker. Sexton is expected to be formally elected to the speakership at a special session on Friday.
As a representative, Faison has encouraged bipartisan collaboration. He has also lead the efforts to legalize medical marijuana.
Faison, R-Cosby, was one of the first Republicans to ask Casada to step down after lewd text messages between the speaker and a top aide were leaked to the media. And he's been a vocal opponent about Casada's leadership style. In an interview with The Tennesseean, Faison said there was a "spirit of fear" after Casada's election to the speakership in January.
But Faison rejects the idea that his winning the chairmanship happened because his colleagues were rejecting those close to Casada and what he represented.
"I don't see this as a repudiation," Faison told reporters Thursday. "In our caucus, we look at who is going to do the best for each one of us and help us promote ourselves and our district. ... I think that's what this vote was about today."
As chairman, Faison will now be in charge of fundraising for Republican members for the general election. According to caucus rules, the caucus can't help members in the primary elections.
But Faison said he will personally help his colleagues.
"I'll go to their districts. I'll find some staff that can volunteer a couple of days," Faison said. "We are going to show up, we are going to burn the rubber off our shoes."
House Majority Leader William Lamberth said Faison started his campaign for the chairmanship early. He said that helped him gain the support and confidence of his colleagues.
Meanwhile, in a tweet, Gov. Bill Lee congratulated Faison.
"He is a great representative for his district and will be an excellent leader of his caucus," the tweet read. "I look forward to working with him in his new role."