Cooper becomes latest House Democrat to not seek reelection

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection this year, citing new congressional district lines that split up his home city of Nashville, which he’s represented in Congress for decades. 

Cooper acknowledged that he doesn’t see a path to reelection under the state’s new redistricting plan that would divide Nashville into three congressional districts. 

“Despite my strength at the polls, I could not stop the General Assembly from dismembering Nashville. No one tried harder to keep our city whole. I explored every possible way, including lawsuits, to stop the gerrymandering and to win one of the three new congressional districts that now divide Nashville,” Cooper said in a statement.

“There’s no way, at least for me in this election cycle, but there may be a path for other worthy candidates,” he added. 

Cooper said he wanted to announce his decision now so that other candidates have time to enter the race and that he will return campaign donations he’s already received.

Cooper, 67, served in the House from 1983 to 1995 and then again starting in 2003. 

He is a senior member of the moderate-minded Blue Dog Coalition and repeatedly cast votes against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to serve as his party’s leader.

House members can cast votes for anyone they want for Speaker — even people who don’t serve in Congress — and Cooper expressed support for alternatives ranging from former Secretary of State Colin Powell to Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) in 2017. But last year, with Democrats’ smallest majority in decades, Cooper broke his streak and backed Pelosi.

Cooper defended his record as a “proud Democrat who refuses to demagogue, and who chooses to be on the right side of history in order to give all our kids a better future.” 

“I love the intimacy of solving others’ problems. I am prejudiced, but Tennesseans are the finest people in the world. We include recent arrivals, particularly immigrants, who often have hard lives. I hate the thought that no congressional office may be willing to help them after I leave,” Cooper said.

Cooper said he doesn’t yet know “what the future holds” but that he is looking forward to getting to “make up for lost time with family and friends.”

Cooper is the 29th Democrat who has decided not to seek reelection to the House in a year that’s expected to be difficult for his party due to once-a-decade redistricting and the historic tendency for the incumbent president’s party to lose congressional seats in midterm cycles. 

By contrast, only 14 House Republicans have decided not to run for reelection, including two who resigned to take jobs in the private sector. 

Republicans need to flip only five seats to win the House majority in the November midterm elections.

Tags Colin Powell Jim Cooper Nancy Pelosi Redistricting Tennessee Tim Ryan

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