published Friday, January 6th, 2012

Democrats cry foul over redistricting

NASHVILLE — State House Democrats are demanding majority Republicans change a legislative redistricting plan or face a legal challenge.

“We’re headed to court, no doubt about it — unless something happens and the Republicans want to sit down and talk,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, of Nashville, told reporters Thursday.

He charged Republicans are “trying to go to a one-party state.”

The GOP plan, released Wednesday, squeezes eight Democratic incumbents into four seats, forcing them to run against each other.

That includes two black Democrats from Hamilton County, Tommie Brown and JoAnne Favors, and two from Memphis.

In two other cases, incumbent Democrats will wind up running against incumbent Republicans in districts that lean Republican.

The bill came up in a House subcommittee Wednesday and Republicans called the plan “fair and legal.”

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said Brown’s majority-black district needed more black voters to comply with federal Voting Rights Act requirements.

Favors’ district, which is not majority-black, also was “far short” of voters needed to keep district populations statewide roughly the same, McCormick said.

“The only way to keep a majority-minority district there was some combination of those two districts,” McCormick said.

He said that when it came to the pairing of two black lawmakers, “I fully understand that and am sensitive to that.”

“However,” McCormick said, “in this case I don’t know what alternative we have.”

He said the only choices were drawing Favors, Brown or both out of a black-majority district.

“I don’t think it would be the right thing to do, and I’m not going to choose one over the other myself,” McCormick said.

Turner said Democrats, having finally seen the GOP plan, are developing their own redistricting map. Brown and Favors won’t be paired in the plan and both will have Democratic-leaning districts, he said.

He denounced Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart’s contention the statewide GOP plan is “really fair,” offering up an earthier variation on the phrase “bull manure.”

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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