House Democrat Exodus: Rep. Jim Cooper, 29th Democrat, Says He Won’t Seek Reelection

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
January 25, 2022 Updated: January 26, 2022

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) on Tuesday became the 29th House Democrat to announce he’s not seeking re-election.

Cooper, 67, has represented Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District since 2003 and spent an earlier stint in Congress representing a different district from 1983 to 1995.

Cooper blamed redistricting for his decision to retire.

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

“I am announcing my decision promptly so that others have more time to campaign. I will return the individual contributions that I have received for this race so that donors can redirect them as they choose,” he added.

Cooper triumphed in the Democratic primary in 2020 and ran virtually unopposed in the general election, receiving all but 14 votes.

The Tennessee House of Representatives this week approved redrawn maps for Congress and the state legislative chambers. The maps were already cleared by the state Senate and are expected to be approved by Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican.

The congressional map places parts of Nashville into three different districts. The 5th district retains south Nashville but now includes new areas, including all of Maury, Lewis, and Marshall counties.

Republicans in Tennessee called the redrawn maps “constitutionally sound.” Cooper claimed the Republican-majority legislature changed the district he represents as “revenge” for his voting record.

The Tennessee Democratic Party said Monday it was preparing to file a lawsuit over redrawn maps.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement that Cooper “has been a stalwart champion for the working families of Nashville and beyond, and his colleagues and constituents will always remember him for staying true to his values of hard work and bipartisanship in Congress.”

“From his contributions to the fight for voting rights, to his dedication to keeping our fiscal house in order, Jim’s passion for good governance shines through in everything he does. I join Tennesseans and my colleagues in thanking Jim for his leadership in Congress, and we wish him all the best in his next chapter,” Maloney added.

The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee had a different view. Camille Gallo, a spokeswoman for the group, said that the Democrats’ “retirement crisis shows no signs of slowing down,” adding, “no one wants to run on Democrats’ radical agenda of violent crime, open borders, and skyrocketing prices.”

“I said we’d make Jim Cooper retire. We did it before we got to Election Day,” Robby Starbuck, a Republican running for the seat Cooper holds, said in a statement. “A new era begins now. In TN5 I’ll fight to put America First, make sure mandates never happen again, fix our economy, hold China accountable, and much more!”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.