A dozen incumbent members of the state House – mostly Democrats – would have to run against each other in the redistricting plan released by Republicans Wednesday. One contest pits two Representatives in Davidson County.
Antioch’s Sherry Jones and East Nashville’s Mike Stewart would represent the same district, and Stewart says the move is political.
“I’m not completely surprised that the Republicans, in their initial redistricting plan, are trying to penalize strong Democrats.”
Davidson County isn’t losing any of its 10 seats in the 99-member House, and Stewart believes a merger could have been avoided. But districts do have to remain roughly the same size, and House Speaker Beth Harwell says that meant combining some.
“We’ve gone out of our way to be as fair as possible. I can’t control the demographics of this state. When you look at the demographics of Davidson County, downtown has shrunk and the growth is in the south and we just had to do this.”
No Republican would have to run against a fellow party member under the plan, though two GOP lawmakers would have to face a Democratic incumbent.
The half dozen merged districts primarily make way for six new seats where population has boomed since the last census, including Rutherford and Williamson counties.
The shake up in Davidson County also consolidates communities in the southern part of Nashville. Oak Hill, Forest Hills and Green Hills each get their own individual state lawmakers.
In broad strokes, the new House redistricting plan expands West Tennessee districts back toward Middle Tennessee. The western House districts were the ones where population growth (if any) hadn’t matched the rest of the state.
Districts in East Tennessee were largely less populous, so they were expanded, again toward Middle Tennessee.
A new open district (no incumbent) was created in Rutherford County, HD 37. Another, HD 65, was drawn in Williamson County.
A third new open district was created in Davidson, numbered HD 59. It is about 52 percent minority, and Davidson County Democrats say they can win it.
Total population of the state: 6,346,105, or, to put it another way, more than 6.3 million.
The map is designed to create 99 equally-sized House districts with an ideal population of 64,102. The target number is allowed to vary plus or minus 5 percent. So a district could have an additional 3,225 persons, or be short by that many, and still be within tolerances.
The Republican draft plan – the “concept plan,” they call it – fits with the plus/minus 5 percent.
Joe White contributed to this story.