Tennessee House ousts Rep. Jeremy Durham over harassment allegations in 70-2 vote

Jeremy Durham leaves the Capitol on September 13, 2016 shortly before lawmakers held a vote to expel him. (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE (WKRN/AP) – The Tennessee House has voted to expel Republican state Rep. Jeremy Durham following allegations of widespread sexual harassment.

The chamber voted 70-2 on Tuesday to expel a sitting member for the first time in 36 years.

Rep. Durham leaves the Capitol Tuesday. (Photo: WKRN)
Rep. Durham leaves the Capitol Tuesday. (Photo: WKRN)

Durham lost his GOP primary last month after a state attorney general’s investigation detailed allegations that he had had improper sexual contact with at least 22 women over the course of his four years in office.

The chamber’s move to formally expel Durham was made in an effort to prevent the lawmaker from qualifying from lifetime pension payments once he reaches retirement age.

Durham attended the special legislative session. He argued in an eight-page letter to colleagues that he was innocent of all sexual harassment allegations and that he would not be given a chance to mount a defense.

See also: Rep. Jeremy Durham releases letter explaining actions

Durham has denied the allegations. He appeared for the House floor session Tuesday after earlier threatening to sit out the proceedings because he didn’t believe he would receive a fair hearing.

“It’s amazing what people will say as long as it’s not happening to them. I can’t vote for their bills anymore,” said Durham as he left the Capitol.

One of the lawmakers who voted not to expel Durham told News 2 she believed he will sue the general assembly.

Following his expulsion, Durham will no longer be eligible for a pension since he falls short of the 4-year term requirement.

When asked for comment on the expulsion, Gov. Bill Haslam’s Press Secretary Jennifer Donnals told WKRN, “This was a decision made by the House, and the governor agrees with it.”

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.

Lawmakers will now continue the special session, called by Gov. Haslam, as they work to come to terms on a new state law that changed policies regarding underage drunk drivers would forfeit the funds, unless the new law is repealed before October 1.

*WKRN contributed to this report. 

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