GOP-drawn state House redistricting plan tough on Dems

By Tom Humphrey Knoxville News Sentinel

NASHVILLE A Republican-drawn state House redistricting plan to be unveiled today apparently puts eight incumbent Democrats into four new districts and creates five new districts with no incumbent, including one in Knox County.

An all-Republican committee that drafted the plan allowed Democratic leaders to review it Tuesday. The House Democratic Caucus then allowed reporters to sit in a meeting where the plan was discussed.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said Republicans balked at making a physical copy of the map available to Democrats on Tuesday, saying some last-minute changes may occur.

Highlights of the proposal as presented in the Democratic Caucus include:

n In four of the new House districts, eight incumbent Democrats will be facing one another if they seek re-election.

They include Reps. Tommy Brown and JoAnne Favors of Chattanooga and Reps. Mike Stewart and Sherry Jones of Nashville. The other two districts are in Shelby County and pair Reps. Antonio Parkinson and Jeannie Richardson in one while Reps. Barbara Cooper and G.A. Hardaway are paired in another.

The pairings assure that the number of black representatives in the House will be reduced by at least two, Turner noted. Brown, Favors, Cooper and Hardaway are black. He said that was a legally questionable move under federal voting rights law.

n In one new district, incumbent Republican Jim Cobb of Spring City is paired with Democratic Rep. Bill Harmon of Dunlap. Turner said some Republicans were unhappy with that move and the Cobb-Harmon pairing could change.

n Five new no-incumbent districts are created, all apparently designed to lean Republican. One is in Northwest Knox County, including the Hardin Valley and Karns area. The others are in Davidson County, Hamilton County, Rutherford County and Williamson County.

In Knox County, the new 13th District, now Tindell's seat, loses some of its current constituents within the Knoxville city limits most of them going to the district now held by fellow Democratic Rep. Joe Armstrong while expanding south to the Blount County border to take in the Sequoyah Hills, Mount Olive and Bonny Kate precincts that formerly were part of the 17th District, now held by Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. The new 17th District will now take in part of Sevier County instead of part of Knox County.

Tindell, who is in his 11th term as a representative, said he wants to review the final plan before making any decisions on re-election. Turner said the new 13th District likely leans Republican, but he believes Tindell could retain it for Democrats.

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1/4/12