Rutherford County residents could be reassigned to the 4th Congressional District under the proposed redistricting plan being considered by state legislators in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Proposed U.S. House of Representatives map of Middle Tennessee
As part of the proposal, which was released Friday, Rutherford County would no longer be a part of the 6th District, served by Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin.
If approved, Bedford and Marshall counties would also move into the 4th District, which is served by U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Republican from Jasper, Tenn. However, Black would still represent Cannon and Coffee counties.
“The state party applauds our Republican leadership for drawing the new maps in a way that is fair and legal,” said Adam Nickas, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party.
Although the redistricting plan significantly alters how several Middle Tennessee counties are represented in Congress, state lawmakers have said much of the changes to the state and federal district maps were necessary.
The 2010 U.S. Census revealed three of the nine congressional districts deviated from the ideal population requirements by more than 80,000 people. However, the state did not receive any additional congressional seats, and federal law requires districts be equal in population.
To meet those standards, the plan splits eight counties, two fewer than before, according to a joint statement by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell.
As a result, all but one congressional district was considerably altered.
Essentially, congressional districts would mimic the cultural divisions in the state.
West Tennessee would house two districts, three districts that surround the 5th District, served by Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville, would anchor Middle Tennessee and all three East Tennessee districts would be entirely in that section of the state.
“The new maps meet all constitutional and legal standards, (and also) address the rapid growth of several Middle Tennessee counties, including Rutherford County, over the past 10 years,” Nickas said.
He said Rutherford County voters should feel encouraged by the redistricting proposals because the new district boundaries would give constituents a stronger presence in state politics.
According to state population data, Rutherford County would comprise 37 percent of the newly redrawn 4th District total population, a 5 percent increase compared with the current demographics of the 6th District – meaning voters would likely have a more powerful voice in state and federal elections.
“The public should take a great interest in redistricting because these lines determine who will represent them,” said state Sen. Eric Stewart, who is running for the Democratic Party nomination for the 4th District race.
“We need to draw maps fair and accurately,” he said. “It is very hard to take politics out of it. Democrats have been in charge of redistricting for a long time, and now, Republicans are in charge, so it’s their turn. I’m not going to complain about the finalized maps.”
With a strong population base in Rutherford County, it is likely a Republican from here will step up to challenge DesJarlais for the seat in the August primary.
State Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, who ran for the Republican nomination in the 2010 congressional primary, announced Monday he will not enter the race because he plans to stay in the General Assembly.
“I am committed to continuing my work on state issues to make Tennessee a better place to work and live, especially in the areas of job creation, education and transportation,” Tracy said.
State Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, whose state Senate district was redrawn so he would only represent Rutherford County, said this week he is considering a bid for the seat.
However, Ketron said he is talking to his family and praying about the matter, noting right now he wants to focus on his work in the state legislature.
“I am the Republican Caucus chairman and we have a (GOP) majority starting session this week,” Ketron said. “My leadership is required to help prepare our Republican majority to continue the progress we have made in Nashville.”
Ketron may not be the only state lawmaker who decides to challenge DesJarlais. Other prospective challengers are likely waiting to announce their bid until all of the redistricting plans are approved by the General Assembly, which could happen by the end of the week.
Jonathon Fagan contributed to this report.