By Andy Sher
NASHVILLE - A last-gasp effort to prevent Bradley County from being split between the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts in redistricting is expected in the GOP-controlled Senate today.
But it won't be made by a Republican. State Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, an announced candidate in the 4th District, plans to push Republicans including Sen. Mike Bell, R-Cleveland, on the issue with an amendment that would keep Bradley whole and in the 3rd District.
"We can make this plan both legal and fair to counties so that they might stay whole and within their current districts," Stewart said. "I would hope such a plan would receive a fair look in what has been an otherwise hurried process."
The 4th District would move from having three split counties in the Republican proposal to just one under Stewart's plan.
It also keeps Coffee County inside the 4th. Senate Republicans intend to put it in the 6th Congressional District. Maury County would be kept whole in the 4th instead of being split between the 4th and 7th Districts.
Van Buren County, which has a small portion in the proposed Sixth District, would also be wholly in the Fourth District under Stewart's amendment.
"This map is constitutional, keeps counties together, and preserves the rural nature of the 4th Congressional District," Stewart said in a news release. "If we really want what's best for Tennessee voters, this amendment gives us the opportunity to provide it."
Bradley County Republican Party and majority Republicans on the Bradley County Commission have gone on record saying they don't want the county split in congressional and state Senate redistricting.
Bell said he doesn't want to see them split either but has failed to persuade colleagues.