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VOL. 40 | NO. 14 | Friday, April 1, 2016

State Rep. Durham seeks re-election despite investigation

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NASHVILLE (AP) — A state representative under investigation after allegations he sexually harassed staff members says he will run for re-election.

The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/1TtpoeB) Franklin Republican Jeremy Durham has filed candidacy paperwork with the Williamson County Election Commission.

Durham in January stepped down as majority whip and then withdrew from the House Republican caucus after The Tennessean reported that he sent post-midnight text messages asking two women working at the Legislature to send him pictures. He then went on a two-week hiatus from the General Assembly to seek medical and pastoral counseling, although he has denied any wrongdoing.

A special House panel appointed by Speaker Beth Harwell named state Attorney General Herbert Slatery's office to head an investigation into Durham's behavior.

Harwell has not ruled out ouster proceedings against the lawmaker.

In announcing his bid for re-election, Durham said his campaign will focus on opposition to the Affordable Care Act, immigration enforcement, and fiscal responsibility.

"Williamson County citizens realize they can count on me to uphold their constitutional conservative values each and every time on each and every issue regardless of outside pressure from establishment politicians or special interest groups," he said in a news release.

Durham has $201,000 in his personal campaign committee fund and $2,000 in a political action committee that he can use for his campaign.

Four other Republicans and one Democrat have so far picked up nominating petitions to run for Durham's seat. Candidates have until next Thursday to return their qualifying papers.

A number of GOP leaders have called for Durham to step down, including Harwell, Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and state Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes.

Durham's colleagues also questioned previous behavior that included writing a letter on House stationery on behalf of a former pastor who pleaded guilty to child porn possession and statutory rape of a 16-year-old parishioner.

Prosecutors in 2014 sought fraud charges against Durham on allegations of altering medical prescriptions, but a grand jury declined to indict the lawmaker.

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