Memphis lawmaker says someone grabbed his throat during capitol lock-in


State Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis)

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — State Rep. G.A. Hardaway never thought political differences would get so out of hand.

The Memphis lawmaker says he was accosted as House Democrats were blocked from leaving the chamber Thursday evening in Nashville.

"I felt a hand or it could have been an arm at my neck," Hardaway says.

He says he couldn't see who it was. His colleagues say it was a Capitol security officer.

"And I responded instinctively ... Took whoever it was, pushed it off," Hardaway says.

The incident came after a contentious day of bickering on the floor, partly over a controversial Medicaid bill. Democrats, who are outnumbered 3-1 in the House, knew they had no chance of winning a vote. So, they staged a walkout during recess, hoping to avoid it and kill the legislation on the last day of the session.

Republican Speaker Glen Casada allegedly had the doors locked to keep a quorum.

"If we're going to have to resort to locking doors," Hardaway said, "it’s not going to be a situation conducive to producing good legislation."

Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a fellow Memphis Democrat, agrees.

"Diplomacy is always the choice over locking the doors," Parkinson says.

Speaker Casada, who knew the bill would pass if it came to a vote, says he had every right to lock the doors.

"It was a serious offense what they did," Casada says, "It cannot be taken lightly, to walk out and shirk your constitutional responsibilities."

Democrats eventually fought their way out after minutes of pushing and shoving.

"I'm not going to be locked into a room or a chamber. I don't care who it is," Hardaway says.

According to The Tennessean newspaper, Republican Rep. Matthew Hill now wants to launch an ethics investigation into Hardaway's actions. Hardaway says that's ridiculous.

In the meantime, the Medicaid bill passed behind a tidal wave of Republican votes and vocal objections from Democrats.


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