Dean to Harwell: Don’t split up Nashville’s congressional district

Monday, August 29, 2011 at 12:06pm

As the Republican-dominated state legislature embarks on the ultra-politicized process of redistricting, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and Mayor Karl Dean have joined forces in delivering a united message: Keep Nashville within one congressional district.

In a letter sent last month to Republican Speaker of the House Beth Harwell of Green Hills, Dean wrote that while Harwell has made a “commitment to a fair, transparent process,” others such as state Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney have not.

Dean makes the case severing Tennessee’s 5th congressional district, held by Cooper and encompassing all of Davidson County, could have harmful economic ramifications.   “Splitting Davidson County would not only divide business interests and industry concerns, but would drive a stake in the heart of a cohesive and diverse (ethnically and politically) social and civic unit,” Dean wrote. “In addition, Davidson County's role as a regional leader could be significantly diminished.”   The state legislature redraws the lines of Tennessee’s political boundaries each decade using fresh U.S. Census Bureau figures. Because of recent Republican election sweeps, the legislature now has heavy majorities in both the House and Senate. New maps are expected to go before the legislature during the next session, which begins in January.   The City Paper over the weekend learned of one recently drafted map that splits Nashville-Davidson County into three congressional districts. Cooper’s seat includes all of Davidson County and parts of Wilson County.   In this scenario, the hope for Republicans would be to turn what currently are two Democratic seats out of nine total into one, leaving Shelby County’s U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen-occupied seat as the lone Democratic congressional stronghold.   As a sign of their organized front, Cooper and Dean sat down with The Tennessean’s editorial boardMonday morning to deliver their concerns to that publication.     “Davidson County plays a dominant role in the state's economy, and historical precedent has always kept the central economic units in our state intact,” Dean wrote in the July letter. “Based on recent census numbers, Davidson County currently has a population of just over 626,000, short of the new ideal size of 705,123. Davidson County, our home county and yours, is perfectly situated to continue to lead a single Middle Tennessee congressional district, in the same way that single districts in Chattanooga and Knoxville drive those parts of our state.”   Greg Hinote, Dean’s deputy mayor, previously served as Cooper’s chief of staff.   Harwell could not immediately be reached for comment.