Rep. Mark Lovell resigns amid allegations of inappropriate sexual contact

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A freshman Republican lawmaker has resigned from the Tennessee General Assembly just weeks into his first legislative session.

Rep. Mark Lovell (R- Shelby County), a fair and carnival operator from suburban Shelby County, submitted his resignation letter on Tuesday.

Speaker of the House Beth Harwell released the resignation letter where Lovell said he's leaving to focus on family.

He said in the letter that the elected position ended up being more demanding than he expected and that he needs more time to devote to his business interests.

"I can only hope everyone who placed their trust in me to represent them in the State Legislature including all my constituents, neighbors, family and friends can accept my sincerest apology for having to resign at this time," Lovell said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "While I am extremely disappointed that at this time I do not feel I have the capacity to serve my constituents and represent them to the best of my abilities while also giving my family the attention they deserve, I must choose to focus on my family and myself at this time."

Lt. Governor Randy McNally would not confirm or deny if a sexual harassment claim against the former lawmaker exists: “I cannot and would not comment on any ongoing investigation into a sexual harassment complaint until the investigation was completed. The Senate takes any and all sexual harassment complaints extremely seriously. If the complaint were deemed valid, the Senate would demand a full and public vetting of the matter immediately. The Senate is committed to taking all actions within the law and the rules to ensure a safe workplace for our Senate staff members.”

"Regarding any sexual harassment allegations, I stand by my statement that no improprieties happened and the allegations are completely false," Lovell said.

The County Commission is responsible for appointing an interim replacement.

District 95 voters in Collierville, Eads and part of Germantown will vote in a special election in 2017.

According to the Tennessee Secretary of State, Gov. Bill Haslam will call for a special election; the primary will be 60 days later and the general election would be 100 days later.

Rick Rout, son of the former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout, said he will actively seek the appointment to replace Lovell and will definitely run for the position in 2018.

County commissioners said they'd heard interest from dozens of candidates.

“I think its great so many people wanna serve. I think that’s wonderful especially in the political climate we have today,” Rout said.

According to his biography, Lovell has been married for 29 years and has three children. Lovell operates fairs across the country including the Delta Fair.He also owns a real estate development company and Stonebridge Golf Course.