state house

As expected, Tennessee legislators on Monday night gave final approval to new electoral maps for the state Senate and Tennessee’s U.S. House districts.

Most significantly, the new map splits Davidson County into three different congressional districts. The Democratic stronghold had anchored a reliably Democrat 5th Congressional District for generations, though now the city seems poised to be represented by three Republicans, as the 5th District takes on much of reliably Republican Williamson County and other more conservative counties, while the solidly Republican 6th and 7th Congressional Districts will expand into Nashville.

The state House voted in favor of the maps on Monday, following their counterparts in the Senate, who approved the maps last week. The state House also approved a new state House map, which the Senate is expected to approve later this week.

With Republicans controlling supermajorities in both chambers, there was little doubt their favored plans would cruise to passage, despite protests from Democrats and civil rights groups, who argued splitting Nashville would weaken nonwhite communities' political power.

"As we split up Davidson County, the impact and influence of African American voters may be diminished," Rep. Harold Love (D-Nashville) said.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee has not yet announced whether he would sign the legislation creating the new maps, though he signaled at a public appearance Monday that he didn’t have a problem with them.

Both Rep. Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville) and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), asked directly by Democratic colleagues, denied that splitting Nashville was an effort to give Republicans an extra seat in the state’s nine-member U.S. House delegation. Instead, they said, Nashvillians should be excited they would now have three different representatives to call upon.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) has represented the 5th Congressional District for two decades. During the redistricting process, he repeatedly urged Republicans not to drastically alter his district.

"As we said last week, Jim is exploring every possible way to prevent the gerrymandering of Nashville, and in the event that we cannot stop gerrymandering, help Democrats (including himself) win in every one of the three districts in which Nashville is being fenced,” Cooper campaign spokesperson Katie Feldhaus Jackson said.

Odessa Kelly, a local activist challenging Cooper in the Democratic primary, now lives in one of the other Nashville districts (candidates are allowed to run in districts in which they do not live). She has not yet said whether she will remain in the 5th District race or switch to her new district.

“The GOP should be careful what they wish for," she said Monday. "The progressive movement knows how to organize, and whether you’re urban, suburban or rural, we are coming with an agenda to unite the working class around public policies that work for all of us. We can win anywhere."

In the state House, Republicans paired several Democratic incumbents together (compared with two Republican incumbents), though paired Davidson County incumbents were ultimately put back in separate districts. The state Senate avoided putting incumbents in the same district.