Republicans consider dividing Nashville district to win US House seat

In an interview, Cooper acknowledged that Republicans could effectively decide his political fate and warned that they could weaken Nashville’s influence in Washington.

“They couldn’t beat me fairly,” Cooper told CNN. “So now they’re trying to gerrymandering me.”

“It’s not about me,” he added. “This is about the political future of the Nashvillians. And they deserve their own voice, whoever they are in Congress.”

Tennessee House President Cameron Sexton, a Republican, told CNN that the burgeoning growth of central Tennessee could force the congressional districts of eastern and western to expand there. From 2010 to 2019, Davidson County in Nashville grew by about 70,000 people, according to the US Census Bureau, far more than any other in the state.

“There is a possibility that Davidson County could be split into two, three, I doubt four (districts),” Sexton said. “We’re just going to make sure we create districts that can stand up to court challenge and at the same time not try to gerrymander some seats.”

Sexton also acknowledged the political considerations.

“From our perspective, we would always like to have more Republicans (in Congress), just as I’m sure Democrats in other states would like to have more Democrats,” he said. “I don’t think people necessarily want things to stay the same if they can get more of their employees elected.”

Republicans ‘control over the redistribution process in Texas, North Carolina and Florida is expected to outstrip Democrats’ advantage in other states like New York. Cook’s non-partisan political report estimates Republicans will gain between three and four House seats in 2022 through a redistribution. Republican Congressional National Committee spokesman Michael McAdams said the once-in-a-decade phenomenon is only part of the party’s strategy to recapture the House.

“The redistribution alone will not give House Republicans a majority, which is why we are focused on running competitive campaigns across the country and making sure voters understand just how important the socialist agenda of the Democrats is dangerous to American families, ”McAdams said.

Cooper, a self-proclaimed “nerd” who has “traditionally” been “very moderate,” said the city’s interests would suffer if multiple GOP congressmen represented it.

“Being able to speak from both sides of the aisle is vitally important to the future of the state,” Cooper said.

Some business Democrats fear that if the district is divided, no member of the House will be a supporter of the city’s health, education and music industries, and be able to organize an effective crisis response. like the Nashville bombing in 2020.

Bert Mathews, a commercial real estate developer, said Nashville has its own challenges “which are really very different” from other cities in the state.

“I feel like having a congressman is a real help in a particular situation,” said Mathews.

Cooper said dividing the district because of the growth of Middle Tennessee is a “very misleading” argument because the state’s districts will all be about 768,000 people, roughly the size of Nashville. But he acknowledged that he is a sitting duck with “no effective legal recourse” if the State House and Senate decide to divide his own.

A 60-slide presentation written by former Cooper’s chief of staff Lisa Quigley obtained by CNN warned that if Davidson County was not kept intact in a House district, the black vote would be split and reduced to silence.

While Republicans are determined to take over the House, lawmakers in neighboring districts could help Cooper save his seat. Tennessee GOP Representative Mark Green is concerned the General Assembly will go too far in rewriting their House districts, making its seat more competitive over the next decade.

“What we don’t want to do is go greedy,” Green told CNN. “And then in four years, as Nashville continues to turn blue, will find itself in a worse situation than us.”

“I would love to help take the House back in this way, but I think we’re better off at seven and two,” he added.

Sexton said Green had disseminated “misinformation” about how he could be removed from his seat by welcoming Davidson County voters. But Sexton acknowledged that Republicans should “weigh the risk” of changing neighborhoods.

“You have to be very careful when trying to play very partisan politics because it could hurt you in the long run if you try to move enough people to create seats for your party,” he said.

The speaker from Tennessee noted that the census had not provided the General Assembly with the data it needed to create the districts, saying that “there had been no discussion, no drawing, or whatever. either, on what something looks like “.

Republicans including Dr Manny Sethi, left, an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and former state president Beth Harwell, right, told CNN they would consider running for the Room though representative Jim Cooper & # s borough has turned redder.

Adam Kleinheider, spokesperson for Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, said the pandemic was postponed when they received final census numbers until around September. Kleinheider said members of the state’s redistribution committee would likely be appointed later this summer and the new districts are due to be created in January. He said McNally “has embarked on an open and transparent redistribution process” and will provide input from the general public and their representatives.

“Until the final census figures are obtained, no real work regarding the drawing of the districts can begin,” Kleinheider said. Any reflection or speculation on the possible configuration of neighborhoods at the present time would be totally premature. “

At this point, however, it’s clear some Republicans want to rewrite Cooper outside of his district, even though the outcome is uncertain.

“Whatever scenario you would ask questions about, is that a possibility? Yes,” said Chip Saltsman, former president of the state’s GOP. “Is this going to happen?” I do not know.

Already, Cooper is facing a Democratic challenge from the left with Odessa Kelly, which is backed by Justice Democrats, the progressive group that launched New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 campaign. Two other Republicans, Robby Starbuck and Quincy McKnight, also entered the race against Cooper.

The other two high-profile Republicans, including Dr Manny Sethi, an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and former state president Beth Harwell told CNN they would consider running for the House if the district became redder. Davidson County opted for Biden over Donald Trump 64.5% to 32.5% in 2020, but all the counties around it have opted for Trump.

“If that hasn’t changed then you know, obviously not,” Sethi said. “I just have to see what it looks like.”

“I just think we really need good Tory Republican leadership to take on the President and (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi,” he added.

Cooper, 67, said he would run for re-election in 2022 for his long service in Congress, even if Republicans tried to get him out of his district.

“In general, you want an experienced doctor. You want an experienced lawyer. You should want an experienced elected official,” Cooper said. “Otherwise, you get a recruit who’s going to have to spend all of their time learning the job. “

“Show me another city in America that is more successful than Nashville,” he added. “We are on a roll.”

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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