Haslam: Durham should ‘think hard’ about resigning

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that it will be difficult for state Rep. Jeremy Durham to be an effective lawmaker after GOP leaders called for him to resign from his seat amid sexual harassment allegations.

While Haslam did not directly call for Durham to step down, the governor said he would “think hard” about resigning if he were in a similar situation.

“Rep. Durham needs to ask himself, how effective can I be representing my constituency at this point?” Haslam said.

State Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes and House Speaker Beth Harwell a day earlier called for Durham to quit the Legislature following news accounts that he had sent inappropriate text messages to women working at the General Assembly.

“I thought the Republican leadership made some strong points,” Haslam said. And if I was a member and my leadership was making those points, I would think hard about that.”

“In my opinion it will be hard for him to be effective representing his constituency at this point,” he said.

Durham stepped aside as House majority whip, but denied any wrongdoing. He said he will remain in his seat and run for re-election.

The sexual harassment allegations followed earlier revelations of Durham’s questionable behavior. In 2014, Durham wrote a character reference on behalf of a youth pastor who pleaded guilty to child porn possession and salutatory rape of a 16-year-old parishioner.

Prosecutors in earlier that year had sought prescription fraud charges against the lawmaker, but that a grand jury declined to bring an indictment against Durham.