Fellow Republican to seek seat of accused Tennessee lawmaker

Published 9:53 am Monday, January 6, 2020

NASHVILLE (AP) — A fellow Republican will run for the seat held by Rep. David Byrd, a Tennessee lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct who has been mum about whether he will seek reelection this year.

Former Savannah, Tennessee City Manager Garry Welch announced his campaign in The Courier newspaper in Savannah this week.

Last August, The Tennessean reported that Byrd told GOP colleagues during a closed-door caucus meeting he wouldn’t run again. Byrd later told reporters he would make a public statement by the end of September. He hasn’t addressed the choice since.

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Byrd has attracted scrutiny for more than a year over allegations by three women of sexual misconduct three decades ago when he was a high school teacher and their basketball coach. He was never charged. Two alleged Byrd inappropriately touched them. The third said Byrd tried to.

Byrd apologized to one of the women in a phone call she recorded in early 2018, but he didn’t detail his action and denied anything happened with other students.

Byrd cruised to reelection in 2018 after the sexual misconduct allegations became public, but he did not draw a Republican primary opponent in the GOP-tilted district, which includes Hardin, Lewis, Wayne and part of Lawrence counties.