Amid discussions by Republicans in the Tennessee state legislature about breaking Nashville up into several majority-GOP areas as the redistricting process begins ahead of the 2022 elections, the city’s Democrat U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper has requested that the state capital’s district be kept intact, the Nashville Post has reported
“In previous redistricting rounds, the general feeling was let’s keep districts as close as you can. I hope and pray for Nashville’s sake that that’s done this time,” Cooper recently told the state House select redistricting committee.
The majority of the 5th Congressional District’s population is in Nashville, but also includes Davidson, Dickson, and part of Cheatham counties. Since the last redistricting cycle 10 years ago, Nashville’s population has grown enough to make up almost an entire congressional district, if the state legislature chooses to keep it whole.
State House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, told NBC News that draft maps won’t be made public until January.
Cooper, who has represented the 5th District for almost two decades, said that “it’s highly likely [Republicans] will gerrymander Tennessee and destroy Nashville’s identity and political clout. It’s a little bit like political looting. If you know that the store is open and nobody’s watching, you’re going to steal as much as you can.”
Several local organizations — including the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and the Equity Alliance — have joined Cooper in requesting that lawmakers carry out a transparent process and keep communities grouped together when redrawing district lines.
State Rep. Kevin Vaughan, a Republican who will supervise Middle Tennessee’s maps for the House redistricting committee, said legislators want to draw districts that are fair so there would not be lengthy taxpayer-funded lawsuits, adding that he wasn’t “predisposed” on how to draw the maps in Nashville.
Davidson County Republican Party Chairman Jim Garrett said that many in the GOP feel “underrepresented” by existing state legislative maps, according to the Nashville Post.
In addition, Sexton suggested it wasn’t always a bad idea to have a city such as Nashville split into different districts that are represented by multiple members of Congress, explaining to NBC News that “If more than one person represents a county, then you have more voice in Washington,” he said.
However, not all Republicans agree with splitting Nashville, the Nashville Post reported.
“My belief is that that would be a bad idea,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Green, a Republican who represents the state’s 7th District immediately to the west of Nashville, according to the Nashville Post. “If you look at Atlanta and you look at Philadelphia — two cities that tried to do that — within three-to-four cycles, those cities flipped.”