Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District grows northward in remap

The bulk of Chattanooga's congressional district, Tennessee's 3rd, could move northward next week if state lawmakers approve a redistricting proposal that would place Oak Ridge and its surrounding counties at the district's geographical center.

Despite that, lawmakers stressed that Chattanooga would be the district's main emphasis.

"The majority of the population is in the Chattanooga media market," said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga. "I like that aspect of it."

Meanwhile, Cleveland, long an urban stronghold of Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District, would move into the 4th Congressional District under the proposal. Bradley County's southern and eastern quadrants would remain in the 3rd District.

Federal law requires the state Legislature to redraw legislative and congressional districts every 10 years to adjust for population shifts documented by U.S. census data. Drawn by GOP-led committees in both houses, the proposed map will now go to all state lawmakers for review and approval, said House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.

Members go back into session Tuesday.

Currently represented by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, the 3rd Congressional District would gain McMinn, Monroe, Morgan and Scott counties, parts of Campbell County and all of Roane County, some of which is already included in the 3rd.

The 3rd District would shed Claiborne, Grainger, Meigs and Rhea counties and parts of Bradley and Jefferson counties, according to the proposed map. Meigs and Rhea counties would move into the 4th Congressional District.

Those changes could benefit Fleischmann in the upcoming GOP primary, where he finds himself contested by several challengers, including Weston Wamp, the 24-year-old son of eight-term congressman Zach Wamp.

During last year's GOP primary, Fleischmann lost Hamilton, Bradley and Rhea counties, but won Anderson County and others near Oak Ridge and Knoxville in his inaugural run for Congress.

Historically, Zach Wamp performed well in Meigs and Rhea.

"We're upset that we're losing some friends in Bradley and Rhea and other counties, but we're looking forward to making friends in the new counties," said Chip Saltsman, Fleischmann's chief of staff.

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Weston Wamp pointed out that six counties in the proposed district "are counties Rep. Fleischmann does not represent."

"I think any objective analysis would say that would help the challenger," Wamp said. "I'm excited about how the district looks, and I'll campaign in the new counties as hard as possible."

The biggest potential change to Tennessee's 4th Congressional District is the addition of Rutherford County, which includes Murfreesboro. Politically, that could complicate matters for the district's current occupant, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper.

Republican state Sens. Bill Ketron, of Murfreesboro, and Jim Tracy, of Shelbyville, have indicated interest in running for the 4th District seat this year depending on how the Legislature redraws the map. Both men live in what would be the new 4th District, according to The Associated Press.

In a news release, Ketron said he'll announce Monday whether he's going to run for Congress, adding that he has thought about being a congressman "since high school."

DesJarlais said he wasn't thinking politics.

"I haven't had an opportunity to study these proposed new lines closely yet, but regardless of the new district boundaries, I'm committed to continuing to be an independent conservative voice for Tennesseans," DesJarlais said in a prepared statement.

State Republicans, led by Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said their plan is "based on logical groupings of communities of common interest."

In a Hamilton County Democratic Party news release, Richard Wilson, who's running for Hamilton County mayor, said the plans "exhibit a degree of arrogance and disregard for the will of the people that goes way over the top."

Staff writer Andy Sher contributed to this story.