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Tennessee’s new congressional map favors Republicans in eight of nine districts and already forced the retirement of the veteran Democratic congressman targeted by the new lines.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Sunday signed into law a map that includes a three-way split of Democratic-leaning Davidson County (Nashville), the population center of the 5th District held by 16-term Rep. Jim Cooper.
On Jan. 25, a day after the Republican-dominated legislature gave final approval to the map, Cooper announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, citing politically unfavorable redistricting.
“Despite my strength at the polls, I could not stop the General Assembly from dismembering Nashville,” Cooper said in a statement. The map transformed the 5th District from a Democratic bastion Joe Biden carried by 24 percentage points in the 2020 election to a Republican-leaning area Donald Trump would have won by 11 points.
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Some Tennessee Democrats said the map dilutes the voting power of people of color. Davidson County is about 24% Black and 14% Hispanic.
The map “disenfranchises the vote of African-Americans and minorities in the state of Tennessee,” state Rep. Vincent Dixie (D) said during floor debate last week.
State Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D) said mapmakers should have kept Davidson County whole and then added whatever territory was needed to meet the population target. That would have “maintained a community of common interest,” he said.
Speaker Pro Tempore Pat Marsh (R) said the map complied with all federal and state constitutional and statutory requirements. He denied the splintering of Davidson was driven by political considerations. Marsh said the county would benefit from having three House members representing parts of it.
“In the last 10 years, Davidson County has had one congressman in Washington, D.C. In this proposed plan, they will have three. I think that’s three times as good, three times more representation,” Marsh said.
The map parceled out sections of Davidson to the 6th District of two-term Rep. John Rose (R) and the 7th District of two-term Rep. Mark Green (R). The 7th would still lean Republican though not as overwhelmingly as the 6th or most other Tennessee districts: Trump would have carried the reconfigured 7th by 15 points.
The new map maintains a Black-majority 9th District in and around Memphis. That area has been represented since 2007 by Steve Cohen, who probably will be the only Democrat in the Tennessee congressional delegation after the November election.
With assistance from Kimberly Wayne
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at email@example.com