Tennessee: Republican remap targets House Democrats

Tennessee: Republican remap targets House Democrats

January 5th, 2012 by Andy Sher in News

Tennessee House attorney Doug Himes, right, presents a House Republican redistricting plan on Wednesday in Nashville. The once-a-decade redistricting plan follows the 2010 census and reflects shifting population and political trends.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - State House Republicans on Wednesday released a legislative redistricting plan that could end the political careers of at least a half dozen Democratic incumbents.

It could also trigger a crowded race for a newly drawn, open seat in eastern Hamilton County. Three potential candidates already have surfaced.

The Republicans' plan will force eight Democratic incumbents into four districts so they have to run against each other to stay in office. That includes merging parts of the 29th and 28th legislative districts, pitting black Democrats JoAnne Favors and Tommie Brown against each other.

In other cases, two Democrats are being placed in Republican-leaning districts with Republican incumbents.

The 31st District will lose its slice of northern Hamilton County and move Republican Jim Cobb, of Spring City, westward into the district now held by Democrat Bill Harmon, of Dunlap. Both lawmakers said they intend to run.

Taking out the slice of District 31 also means Hamilton County will have just five seats.

District lines at all levels are redrawn every 10 years after the census to reflect population shifts. This is the first time in history that Republicans have had the power of the pen. The plan was approved by a Republican ad-hoc committee and later by the GOP-run House State and Local Government Subcommittee. Republican senators released their plan, but the House plan appears to have stalled.

The plan includes six open seats.

New 29th district

Among them is the newly drawn, Republican-leaning 29th District in Hamilton County. It includes parts of Collegedale, Apison, Ooltewah and some areas along Highway 58 as well as Sale Creek and Bakewell.

Former Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Mike Carter told the Times Free Press he is running.

"I think it's a great opportunity to serve," said Carter, who came to Nashville to watch proceedings.

Accompanying him was former Republican Rep. Bobby Wood, who is serving as Carter's campaign co-chairman. Wood's wife, Jeanne, is serving as co-chairwoman, Carter said.

Wes Kliner, a former county and state election commissioner and managing partner of Frager Kliner law firm, said he is "strongly considering" running in the 29th but hasn't made a final decision.

"I want to see what the final redistricting map looks like and the final Senate map. I think where those lines are drawn will determine who else is interested in serving," Kliner said Wednesday.

Ray Minner, a former Collegedale Academy teacher who said he's "easing toward retirement" by substitute teaching in public schools, also is interested but not committed.

"I think I would absolutely love the work and the opportunity to serve the people of Hamilton County," Minner said. "The main question for me right now is, is that a lifestyle I really want to do?"

The prospect of spending three to four nights a week in Nashville for three to four months isn't a lure, he said. And he also wants to see who else is interested in the race.

Cramped 28th

Both Brown and Favors, meanwhile, said they have made no final decision about running in the GOP-crafted 28th District.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said minority voters from Favors' district need to be shifted to preserve Brown's black majority. Favors' district has a white majority.

During the House subcommittee hearing, Brown, a panel member, complained the GOP maps did not contain adequate information.

"And oh, by the way, I'm no stranger to the federal courts," Brown said, alluding to her leading role in the 1980s court chase that overturned Chattanooga's commission form of government for Voting Rights Act violations.

Brown said she intends to hold an "emergency" meeting this weekend with district residents to explain the GOP redistricting plan.

Favors said she's still considering whether to run or drop out, though she's "leaning" toward a race.

Republicans are also merging two Memphis districts held by black Democrats Barbara Cooper and G.A. Hardaway. Hardaway is exploring a lawsuit.

Staff writer Judy Walton contributed to this report.