Oct 18, 2021 - Politics
Rep. Cooper grows campaign war chest
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper speaks on stage in front of a microphone.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper. Photo: Jason Davis/WireImage for The Recording Academy

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper has built a sizable fundraising advantage over his top challenger in the Democratic primary for Tennessee’s fifth congressional district with just under a year to go before the 2022 election.

Why it matters: Kelly is backed by the influential Justice Democrats, the same group that helped propel progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush to primary victories over establishment Democrats.

  • With over $412,000 raised to date, Kelly is already the best-funded challenger Cooper has ever faced for his Nashville-area House seat.

Go deeper: Cooper overcame a challenge from the left in 2020, downing progressive attorney Keeda Haynes by about 15,000 votes and a margin of 57% to 39%.

  • It was Cooper's closest primary yet, stirring conversation that he may be vulnerable to a progressive challenge.
  • Kelly has run an anti-establishment message against Cooper, whose brother John Cooper is Nashville's mayor.

Yes, but: There's a bigger question to be answered than fundraising numbers. Rumors continue to swirl that Republican state lawmakers will redraw the congressional maps in an attempt to increase the GOP's 7-2 advantage in Tennessee’s House delegation.

  • In that scenario, Cooper would be drawn into a new Republican-majority district with known Republicans such as Beth Harwell, Manny Sethi and Steve Dickerson looming as possible challengers.
  • The Republicans' proposed House districts will be unveiled in the coming months and considered by the General Assembly in January.
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