Long-Time Tennessee Democrat Retires, Blames Gerrymandering For His Decision

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Democratic Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper, who has served in Congress for more than 30 years, will not seek re-election in 2022, he announced Tuesday.

Cooper’s Fifth District is one of the two Tennessee seats currently held by Democrats, and has a 17-point Democratic lean, according to FiveThirtyEight. However, a map approved Monday by the state General Assembly would split majority-black Davidson County, where Nashville and Cooper’s home are located, into three separate districts. Much of Cooper’s current district would be absorbed into the current and Sixth and Seventh Districts.

“I could not stop the General Assembly from dismembering Nashville. No one tried harder to keep our city whole. I explored every possible way, including lawsuits, to stop the gerrymandering and to win one of the three new congressional districts that now divide Nashville,” he said in a statement.

“I don’t know what the future holds but I am ready to get another job next year and make up for lost time with family and friends. I could not be more excited. Having started as the youngest congressman in America, even after my record tenure I am still only 67 years old.”

Cooper is the 42nd member of the House, and the 29th Democrat to retire at the end of the 117th Congress. He is the first member of Tennessee’s delegation to do so, and the dean of the current delegation. With Cooper’s retirement, fellow Democrat Steve Cohen will become the state’s longest-serving member. (RELATED: Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson, Longest-Serving Texas Rep, Announces Retirement)

A Nashville native, Cooper’s father Prentice served as governor of Tennessee from 1939 to 1945. Jim Cooper worked as an attorney before seeking elected office.

First elected in 1982, Cooper represented the Fourth District for 12 years, before leaving the House for an unsuccessful 1994 Senate run. Cooper returned to the lower chamber in 2003, where he sits on the Armed Services, Budget, and Oversight and Reform committees.

Cooper is also a member of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition and the center-left New Democrat Coalition. He was one of several Democrats who pressured Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to step down as leader of the party in 2018.