Tennessee GOP Splits Nashville into Three Congressional Districts

People talk before the start of the meeting of the standing committee on rules at the Republican National Committee summer meeting, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, in Nashville, Tennessee.
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

The Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives released a proposed map of the state’s nine congressional districts on Wednesday that divides the Democrat majority city of Nashville into three congressional districts.

The 5th Congressional District, which has been represented by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN-5) since 2003, currently is composed of the city of Nashville (the largest part of Davidson County), the rest of Davidson County, all of Dickson County, and parts of Cheatham County. A little more than 90 percent of the current population of the district (715,000 out of 778,000) resides in Davidson County.

The proposed map introduced by Republicans at Wednesday’s hearing of the Tennessee House Select Committee on Redistricting splits Davidson County into three congressional districts. Only a third of Davidson County is included in the proposed 5th Congressional District, which now includes western Wilson County, a suburban ring county, eastern Williamson County, also a suburban ring county, and all of Maury County, Marshall County, and Lewis County.

The partisan makeup of the proposed new 5th Congressional District is dramatically different than the current 5th Congressional District. In the 2020 election, Joe Biden won the 5th Congressional District by a margin of 23 percent. In contrast, votes cast in the precincts that comprise the new proposed 5th Congressional District went for Donald Trump over Joe Biden by a margin of 11 percent.

Under the proposed map, the northern third of Davidson County will become part of the 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. John Rose (R-TN-6), and the western third of Davidson County will become part of the 7th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Mark Green (R-TN-7).

Should the proposed new map become finalized, Republicans would be well positioned to change the partisan makeup of the Tennessee Congressional delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives from seven Republicans and two Democrats in the current 116th Session of Congress to eight Republicans and one Democrat in the 118th Session of Congress that will convene in January 2023.

Republicans enjoy a super majority in both houses of The Tennessee General Assembly. There are currently 73 Republicans and 26 Democrats in the Tennessee House of Representatives. In the State Senate there are currently 27 Republicans and six Democrats.

Tennessee is a heavily Republican state, often described as a sea of red with two islands of blue (Nashville and Memphis). Donald Trump overwhelmingly won the state in 2016 and 2020, and Governor Bill Lee, a Republican, easily won the 2018 general election over his Democrat opponent.

The proposed map may face a legal challenge, as the Tennessee Democrat Party and Rep. Cooper quickly voiced their opposition.

Rep. Cooper said in a statement released by his office Wednesday afternoon:

As I’ve been warning for almost a year, the General Assembly has formally begun gerrymandering Nashville and Davidson County into political oblivion. Under the new map announced today, Nashvillians will be reduced from proud citizens of a capital city to captives inside three colonies run from Clarksville, Cookeville, and Columbia.

The damage this map does to the political influence of minority groups in Nashville is devastating. Our robust, diverse communities in Nashville are represented and affirmed in Washington, DC today when Nashville has its own voice in Congress. That voice is silenced when we are colonized by outlying rural communities. The map was released for the first time today and the more people learn about it, the more they will hate it. The Tennessee Titans stadium will be in one district, and the team’s practice facility in another – this makes no sense.

All Nashvillians should feel insulted and abused by the new map. For at least 100 years, Nashvillians have freely chosen Democratic representatives in Congress, but that tradition is about to end. What Republicans could not win in local elections, they are stealing through gerrymandering.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the Tennessee Democratic Party told Tennessee Republicans “we’ll see you in court.”

Any litigation surrounding the plan will have to wait until the final plan is approved, which may occur before the end of the month.

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