Jim Cooper Calls for ‘Gerrymandering’ of Tennessee District, Won’t Seek Re-Election

Representative Jim Cooper announced he would not seek re-election Tuesday, calling on Tennessee’s General Assembly for “gerrymandering” his Nashville-based district.

Cooper announced his retirement on Twitter. He was first elected to the House in 2003. Throughout his term, he ruled as a centrist Democrat, often facing criticism from some members of his own party. He easily won re-election in 2020, running unopposed for years. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden won the district by nearly 24 points.

But under new district lines in a Congressional map approved by the General Assembly on Monday, Davidson County, home of Democratic-leaning Nashville, will be split into three separate districts, narrowing the Democratic vote. The Republicans with the fewest of the three districts would still have endorsed former President Donald Trump by double digits.

Cooper called for the GOP-led General Assembly to map in announcing his retirement.

“Despite my strength in elections, I could not stop the General Assembly from desegregating Nashville,” he wrote. “No one has tried harder to keep our city perfect.”

He said he had “explored every possible way” to stop the “gerrymandering” but added that “there was no way out, at least for me in this election cycle.”

He believes his votes as a Democrat “definitely fueled the retaliation of our Republican legislature,” he wrote in the statement.

“I am prejudiced, but Tennesseans are the best people in the world. We include recent immigrants, especially immigrants, whose lives are often difficult,” he wrote. “I hate the idea that no congressional office might be willing to help them after I’m gone.”

If the district had remained as a whole, it would still have to face a progressive primary challenger from Odessa Kelly, which has been endorsed by the Justice Democrats—a group that helped bring several progressive lawmakers into office.

Kelly in a statement newsweek, also condemned the new district lines.

“I joined Congressman in fighting against racism from the Tennessee General Assembly, which would erode the voices of black and brown voters in Nashville. But I know one thing is true: the people-driven movement in this state has been in power for years. and no map is going to slow us down,” Kelly wrote.

Kent Seeler, professor of political science at Middle Tennessee State University newsweek An interview on Tuesday evening said the “aggressive” gerrymandering would make it “very, very difficult” for Democrats to hold on to the seat in the 2022 midterm. Even if Cooper remains in the race, it will be a “battle of the climb” for him, he said.

“The Republican legislature basically split Davidson into enough pieces to make it impossible for Jim Cooper or any other Democratic candidate to take one of those districts,” he said.

But he warned that in the later decade, gerrymandering could potentially backfire on Republicans due to population growth in Davidson County—especially during a midterm year with a GOP president.

“For this to be sustainable over the next 10 years, absolutely everything has to be [for Republicans],” he said. “In the end, it may cost them more seats than they were able to afford it.”

He also said that the district deprives communities of color from representation because whenever Cooper eventually decided to retire, the district would have been “very, very competitive for candidates of color.”

“It could easily have become a minority-represented district,” he said. “It really deprives that community of that opportunity.”

Before the midterms, when Republicans hope to take advantage of Biden’s low approval rating to secure a majority in Congress, several other Democratic lawmakers have also announced plans not to seek another term for a myriad of reasons.

newsweek The Democratic congressional campaign committee and Cooper’s office reached out Tuesday for further comment.

Representative Jim Cooper, seen above in Nashville in October 2017, slammed Republicans for “gerrymandering” his district in announcing his retirement from Congress.
Jason Davis/WireImage for Recording Academy

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