Rep. Sheila Butt seeks majority leader post

State Rep. Sheila Butt of Columbia has become the first Republican to declare as a candidate to succeed Gerald McCormick as House majority leader, but The Tennessean reports that at least a couple others – Reps. Glen Casada of Franklin and Cameron Sexton of Crossville – are also interested.

Butt announced her candidacy in an email to colleagues, saying she wants to help the House Republican Caucus “move forward with wisdom, tenacity, civility and better communication.”

“I am confident that I can lead the Caucus in that direction,” Butt said, while saying that she realized during her time as Majority Floor Leader that House Republicans needed improvements in terms of communication.

Butt’s effort comes one day after McCormick, who has been Majority Leader since 2011, informed his colleagues that he was not seeking re-election to the chamber’s second most powerful position. McCormick, R-Chattanooga, is running for re-election in November.

…Sexton told The Tennessean Tuesday that he’s had “numerous members” call him and ask if he’d be interested.

“As members call and I talk to them over the next several weeks I’m going to see what they’re looking for,” said Sexton, who served as House Majority Whip before being defeated by former Rep. Jeremy Durham in 2014.

Sexton said it is “much too early” to be counting votes for the leadership spot and that the priority of the caucus needs to be focusing on making sure every House Republican running for re-election wins in the Nov. 8 general election.

…Butt has proven to be a controversial figure at times.

In 2015, she was criticized for comments she made during a debate about a bill requiring a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion, after she called rape and incest “not verifiable.”

She has also been criticized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations — the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group — for what some labeled a racist Facebook post.

When reached on Tuesday, Butt said she felt “very comfortable” that the Republican caucus knew her and trusted her beyond any controversies she’s faced.

“They know better than some of the things that they’ve read,” she said.