Dec 20, 2021 - Politics

Republican reps keep quiet on Nashville's redistricting future

congressman sitting at desk speaking to a mic
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville. Photo: Jonathan Mattise/AP

Tennessee Republicans are expected to unveil newly drawn congressional district boundaries next month, and Nashville Democrats expect U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper's 5th district to be carved up to make way for a GOP majority.

Why it matters: If Republicans split parts of Nashville into neighboring districts, the liberal city may soon have three or four Republican representatives in Congress. President Biden won 64 percent of the vote in Davidson County last year.

State of play: U.S. Rep. Mark Green has gone on the record expressing his opposition to dividing Nashville among multiple Republican House members.

  • And Cooper has submitted his own proposed maps, which would largely preserve the 5th district as is. But Republican members of Congress who may soon represent large swaths of liberal Nashville have so far not participated in the process.

State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville, who serves on the House redistricting committee, tells Axios the 5th district is likely to be divided among Republicans.

  • "Ensuring the 5th Congressional District lines are wholly in Davidson County is crucial in maintaining election integrity in the next cycle," Freeman tells Axios.
  • "Davidson County should be represented by someone residing within the county, making certain its specific needs are prioritized and not diluted by the interests of a bordering county."

Driving the news: Republicans currently claim seven of Tennessee's nine congressional seats. Splitting up Nashville and eliminating a Democratic district could help the party retake control of the U.S. House in 2022. The district has been a Democratic stronghold for generations.

  • Green was quoted in the Nashville Post in September calling the concept of an 8-1 map "greedy" and "a bad idea." He warned splitting Nashville and its liberal voters into suburban districts could backfire in future election cycles.

What they’re saying: As plans for the map draw closer, though, Republicans are largely staying quiet. Axios asked Republican incumbent representatives Scott DesJarlais, John Rose, and Green to share their thoughts on redistricting.

  • Even though Green has given multiple comments on the subject, a spokesperson said that he is not commenting publicly at this time.
  • Through a spokesperson, DesJarlais tells Axios he has "faith in our duly elected state legislature to make these decisions in a fashion that will best represent the needs and values of our state’s citizens."
  • Rose's office did not respond to requests for comment.

The latest: Rep. Curtis Johnson, who chairs the state House redistricting committee, tells Axios he has not spoken to the congressmen about redistricting.

  • Similarly, Rep. Kevin Vaughan, who is the redistricting committee's designee for the Middle Tennessee area, says he has not heard from any other members of Congress besides Cooper but would welcome their input.
  • The House redistricting committee approved state House legislative maps on Friday. The maps would eliminate five Democratic incumbents in urban districts, the Tennessean reports.
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