Rep. Jim Cooper to Retire;
Alabama Map Tossed

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 27, 2022 — The Tennessee state Senate passed the state House version of the new 9-District congressional map on Tuesday, which led to a political move. The redistricting plan now goes to Gov. Bill Lee (R), and he is expected to sign the legislation.

Retiring Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville)

Upon passage of the new map that would significantly change the Nashville area, veteran Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) quickly announced that he will not seek re-election later this year.

The map drawers divided Davidson County, which houses the Democratic city of Nashville, and split it among three districts: Cooper’s 5th, Rep. John Rose’s (R-Cookeville) 6th CD, and Rep. Mark Green’s (R-Clarksville) TN-7.

The effect creates a new 5th District that moves from a victory margin of 60-37 percent for President Biden to a seat that former President Trump would have carried 54-43 percent according to the Daily Kos Elections site statisticians. Both Reps. Rose and Green would continue to have solid Republican seats even with the Davidson County additions to their districts. Under the plan, the Tennessee delegation is expected to move from 7R-2D to 8R-1D.

Cooper is serving his 16th term in the House, winning his first election from the state’s east/southeastern 4th District in 1982, which he represented until he ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 1994. He returned to the House from the Nashville district in 2002 when then-Rep. Bob Clement (D-Nashville) left the seat to challenge then-Sen. Fred Thompson (R), the same man who defeated Cooper in his statewide bid.

During his second tour of duty in the House, Rep. Cooper was not seriously challenged for re-election. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee where he chairs the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. He also is a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and the House Budget panel. It appeared that Cooper was preparing for a Democratic primary challenge this year, but that is moot now that the new 5th District becomes decidedly Republican.

Rep. Cooper is the 29th Democrat not to seek re-election. Counting the Democratic and Republican retirements along with the new and created (through redistricting) open seats, the House will see a minimum of 50 new members coming into office at the beginning of 2023.

Alabama

Alabama redistricting map (Dave’s Redistricing App)

In a surprising move from an Alabama three-judge all Republican panel, the enacted GOP congressional map was declared void Tuesday because it did not create a second African-American district as the Democratic plaintiffs claimed. Immediately the Republican legislative leadership announced they will appeal the decision.

Currently, the Alabama delegation features a 6R-1D split, and the new map’s configuration is very similar to the current plan. The lone Democratic seat is the Voting Rights district of Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham).

Her 7th CD begins in the city of Birmingham and stretches to Tuscaloosa and then to the capital city of Montgomery before ending in Clarke County, which borders Mobile County. The new 7th is virtually the same in configuration as the current district, though it captures more of Montgomery because the seat had to gain 53,143 more people to meet the state per congressional district population goal of 717,754 residents.

According to the Dave’s Redistricting App statisticians, the new 7th is 55.3 percent black, and the state has an African-American population of 25.9 percent. Because of the population size, the Democrats argued that another minority seat could be drawn, and the judges agreed.

Republicans defended the map showing that the 2nd District (Rep. Barry Moore-R) exceeds the statewide black percentage, and two other CDs, the 1st (Rep. Jerry Carl-R) and the 3rd (Rep. Mike Rogers-R) are both within a percentage point of the statewide African-American figure.

Upon appealing, the map would then go directly to the US Supreme Court, and the high panel must hear the redistricting challenges. It is unclear as to whether Alabama’s May 24 primary and June 21 runoff election schedule will be postponed.

As part of the ruling, however, the state’s candidate filing deadline was moved from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11. The court returned the map to the legislature ordering a new plan by a Feb. 7 submission date. If the GOP legislators appeal to the Supreme Court as they say, it is likely they will not respond to the court order.

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