Cooper Chooses Retirement Over Running in Carved Up District
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., a member of Congress since 1983, on Tuesday became the latest House Democrat to announce he won’t be seeking reelection in 2022.
Cooper, a longtime member of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats, said in the end his decision came down to how state lawmakers carved up his district during the mapmaking that followed the 2020 census.
“Despite my strength at the polls, I could not stop the general assembly from dismembering Nashville,” Cooper lamented in a Twitter post.
“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,” he said.
“There’s no way,” he continued, “at least for me in this election cycle, but there may be a path for other worthy candidates.”
To date, 29 House Democrats have either announced they will retire this year or have opted to seek a different office. Fourteen House Republicans have made the same decision.
Cooper, a Harvard Law School graduate, comes from a long line of public servants. His father was the late former Gov. Prentice Cooper, and his brother is Nashville Mayor John Cooper.
He was first elected to Congress from the 4th Congressional District in 1982, when he was 28 years old. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1994 but lost to Republican Fred Thompson. He returned to politics with a 2002 victory in the 5th Congressional District, which he has represented since.
In a written statement, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, “Jim Cooper has served the people of central Tennessee in Congress with distinction for a combined 32 years. It is no surprise why Tennesseans sent him for six terms to Washington and then, after he left public office for success in the private sector, sent him back again for another 10 terms.
“That’s because they know what his colleagues have come to know well: that Jim Cooper is one of the most serious, steady, and intelligent policymakers and legislators our country has produced. His life of service and contribution — along with those of others in his family who have served and continue to serve their fellow Tennesseans in public office — embodies the ideals of the Volunteer State,” Hoyer said.
On a personal note, Hoyer said he was “deeply saddened” by the death last year of Cooper’s wife Martha.
“She, along with their three children, Mary, Hayes and Jamie, brought him extraordinary joy — and I know that her memory continues to inspire Jim in his work on behalf of Tennesseans in the 117th Congress,” he said. “I join in thanking him for his outstanding contributions to the House, to Tennessee and to our nation, and I look forward to serving the remainder of this Congress alongside him. I wish Jim and his family all the best for the future after he retires.”
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