With redistricting making his 5th District (Nashville) more suburban and more Republican, veteran Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., announced on Tuesday he was retiring after 34 years in Congress.
In so doing, Cooper, 67, becomes the 29th Democrat to announce he was leaving the House in 2022.
In announcing his intention to step down, centrist Democrat Cooper made it clear the redrawing of the Volunteer State’s nine U.S. House districts by the Republican-ruled state legislature played a pivotol role.
Under the new lines, Cooper’s base at the city of Nashville was, in the congressman’s words, “dismembered” by the legislature and will be cut — for the first time ever — into three new and competitive districts. Under the new lines, the 5th District becomes less urban and more suburban and Republican.
“There's no way, at least for me in this election cycle, but there may be a path for other worthy candidates," Cooper told reporters.
Even before Cooper announced his retirement, several Republicans had announced plans to run for the new 5th District. Former state House Speaker Beth Harwell, who lost the primary for governor in 2018, was getting strong encouragement from area conservatives to run for Cooper’s seat.
In an intriguing development, former President Donald Trump came out Tuesday evening with a strong statement giving his blessing to a candidacy by former State Department spokeswoman and 5th District resident Morgan Ortagus. This comes despite the fact that she has yet to indicate any interest in a race.
“Morgan was fantastic in her role working with Secretary Mike Pompeo at the U.S. State Department,” Trump said in a statement, “and understands the threats posed by China, Russia, Iran and others, and will be tough, not just roll over like the Democrats and RINOs [Republicans in name only].”
Although Ortagus tweeted her gratitude for the former president’s strong words, she did not acknowledge she was even thinking about a race, and Nashville sources who spoke to Newsmax almost universally agreed she wouldn’t run.
“Morgan has an infant daughter and is involved in a new private-equity fund here,” said one. “I suspect she wants to make some money and spend some time with her daughter. And I think she likes her gig with Fox television. It would surprise me if she were to give up her home life and her lucrative professional prospects for a job like congresswoman.”
Two years after graduating Harvard Law School in 1980, Cooper won his first term in Congress in the newly-created 4th District. In so doing, he defeated Republican Cissy Baker, the daughter of then-Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, R-Tenn.
Their contest was a virtual “remake” of the 1938 race for governor, in which Cooper’s father, Democrat Prentice Cooper, defeated Baker’s grandfather, Republican Howard Baker Sr.
Cooper left the House in 1994 to run for the Senate against the late Republican Fred Thompson. Following his defeat to Thompson, he moved to Nashville to teach at Vanderbilt University and returned to Congress when the 5th District became open in 2002.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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