jim cooper

Harwell joins open 5th District race

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Associated Press)

Former state House Speaker Beth Harwell has joined the race for the Republican nomination in the open 5th Congressional District.

Harwell, the first female speaker in the history of the General Assembly, left the chamber in 2018 to run for governor.

Other declared candidates so far include former U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus and music video producer Robby Starbuck. Others pondering bids include businessman Baxter Lee, attorney and retired National Guard general Kurt Winstead and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles.

Democratic incumbent Jim Cooper announced his retirement after state lawmakers split up Nashville into three heavily Republican districts.

Here’s the release from the Harwell campaign:

NASHVILLE, TN– Beth Harwell announced today that she is running for the Republican nomination for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional district. A life-long Republican and long-time Nashville resident, Beth is a mother, educator, and former Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives. 

“As Speaker, we rebuilt the Tennessee economy by eliminating taxes, promoting school choice, and balancing our budget. Before that, I taught American history – real American history,” said Beth Harwell. “Now I’m running for Congress to fix America by bringing Tennessee common sense to Washington – they could learn a thing or two from the way we do things.  It’s time to rein in our federal government, stop the fiscal insanity, and return power to the states.”

Today’s America has been put through the ringer as the Biden Administration has driven inflation through the roof and spent our tax dollars on pet projects. They have taken control over our children’s classrooms and destroyed our businesses with mandates and overbearing regulations. Tennesseans don’t need more taxes, red-tape, and government overreach into their families. It’s time the 5th district had a representative who will fix our economy, secure our border, and ensure parents can be involved with their children’s education. 

Beth is the only proven conservative leader and reformer in this race. As Speaker of the House, Tennessee permanently banned a state income tax and eliminated the gift, death, and Hall income taxes, resulting in the largest amount of tax cuts in state history to the tune of over $5 billion dollars. She led the fight for school choice in Tennessee, empowering parents with a greater voice in their children’s education. Beth was an early proponent and ardent supporter of public charter schools and homeschooling options for families across the state.

The 5th congressional district includes portions of Davidson, Wilson, and Williamson Counties and all of Lewis, Marshall, and Maury Counties. 

To learn more about Beth visit BethHarwell.com.

About Beth. As a life-long Republican, Beth played a key role in expanding the party in Tennessee. As Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, she directed the strategy that saw Republicans capture a majority in the State Senate for the first time in nearly 150 years. In her time as the House Republican Caucus Whip and Campaign Committee Chair, House Republicans captured the four seats necessary to take the majority in the Tennessee House of Representatives. In 2011, Beth became the first female Speaker of the House in the Southeast, a position she held for eight years before being appointed to the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors by President Donald Trump in 2019, a position she still holds. She also currently serves as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Middle Tennessee State University. Beth and her husband Sam live in Nashville where they raised their three children. She is a graduate of Lipscomb University and Vanderbilt University.

New TNJ alert: 5th District update, logistics of Robinson proceedings, final state House maps

Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) presides over an Ethics Committee meeting about Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis), in Nashville on Jan. 20, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here’s what’s in it:

— Morgan who? Trump makes surprise 5th District endorsement.

— Ouster watch: Senate to weigh whether to expel Robinson after Wednesday debate.

— Redistricting roundup: 2 steps forward, 1 step back: House GOP undoes some incumbent pairings.

Also: Advocates of right-to-work amendment get favorable internal poll results, Janice Bowling gets COVID-19, and Terri Lynn Weaver gets biblical about Nashville’s raucous tourist district.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Jim Cooper to retire from Congress after 5th District redistricting

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) appears at a Senate redistricting meeting in Nashville on Oct. 18, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper says he won’t run for another term after Republicans split Nashville into three congressional districts.

“I am a proud Democrat who refuses to demagogue, and who chooses to be on the right side of history in order to give all our kids a better future,” Cooper said in a statement. “My votes certainly fueled our Republican legislature’s revenge.”

Here is the full release from Cooper’s office:

NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) released the following statement:

“Today I am announcing that I will not run for re-election to Congress. After 32 years in office, I will be leaving Congress next year.

“I cannot thank the people of Nashville enough. You backed me more than almost anyone in Tennessee history, making me the state’s 3rd longest-serving member of Congress. You allowed me to help millions of people while representing our state capital, as well as 30 of our state’s 95 counties.

“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.

“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.

“I plan on finishing out my term by maintaining a high level of service to all the 760,000+ people in the 5th congressional district. A member of Congress is only as good as his staff, and I’ve had the very best talent for almost 40 years. They are a joy and a blessing. Many have gone on to great careers inside and outside of government. My 600+ interns over the years are our future leaders.

“I’ve given out my personal cell phone number (615-714-1719) to everyone, unlike almost anyone else in Congress, so that I am accessible, even during Covid. And you have called! It’s been a privilege to hear your thoughts, help cut red tape, and to assist in emergencies.

“Another way I’ve been helping is channeling $9.5 billion in federal funds to the Nashville district in just the last 20 months, far more federal money than ever.

 “Anyone who would like a detailed breakdown of this recent federal aid should contact Cara Ince in my office. And the $9.5 billion does not count the billions of dollars of federal aid that our General Assembly has rejected, or the additional funds from the Infrastructure Act (that no Tennessee GOP federal representative supported).

“Most of my work in the House — the real work of Congress gets no publicity — has been on the Intelligence, Armed Services, Budget and Oversight Committees. I serve on more committees than anyone else while maintaining a nationally-recognized level of civility and bipartisanship, even in these divisive times.

“No one is perfect, and I know I’ve made mistakes. I appreciate those who have educated me and helped me improve. But I am a proud Democrat who refuses to demagogue, and who chooses to be on the right side of history in order to give all our kids a better future. My votes certainly fueled our Republican legislature’s revenge.

“I love the intimacy of solving others’ problems. I am prejudiced, but Tennesseans are the finest people in the world. We include recent arrivals, particularly immigrants, who often have hard lives. I hate the thought that no congressional office may be willing to help them after I leave. One of my remarkable staffers, John Wood, has been a one-man Statue of Liberty for decades.

“I don’t know what the future holds but I am ready to get another job next year and make up for lost time with family and friends. I could not be more excited. Having started as the youngest congressman in America, even after my record tenure I am still only 67 years old.

“For everything there is a season, a time and place under the sun. My time in Congress is ending, but I can’t wait to start the next adventure.”

Come and knock on our door: Senate GOP would have three districts meet in Nashville (UPDATED)

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) appears at a Senate redistricting meeting in Nashville on Oct. 18, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The figurative white smoke is rising above the state Capitol as Senate Republicans have announced they will reveal their redistricting maps on Thursday.

The Tennessee Journal has learned the Senate preference is for a three-way division of heavily Democratic Nashville that would entail the 6th and 7th districts currently held by Republican Reps. John Rose of Cookeville and Mark Green of Ashland City, respectively, grabbing portions of the capital city. (This paragraph has been updated to show it’s Rose’s 6th, not Scott DesJarlais of the 4th District, that would move into Nashville).

Green would retain only about a third of Williamson County, the traditionally anchor of the 7th District when now-Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) held the seat. The remainder would become part of the new-look 5th District that has been held by Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper since 2003.

Rapidly growing Rutherford County would remain entirely within the 4th District, which would likely require an overall westward migration of the seat’s boundaries. DesJarlais is from the eastern side of the district.

The House GOP is scheduled to make its draft congressional maps public on Wednesday amid comments by House Speaker Cameron Sexton that Nashville could be split into two or three districts.

The two chambers have been understood to be at odds about how exactly to go about gaining an eighth seat, so the final shape of the plan could still change.

Sexton to AP: The Nashville split is on

Rep. Cameron Sexton presides over his first session as House speaker on Aug. 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton is confirming plans to carve up the heavily-Democratic 5th Congressional District in Nashville to give Republicans a chance to pick up an eighth of the state’s nine congressional seats.

According to Associated Press reporters Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise, Sexton wouldn’t say exactly how many districts would split the state’s second-largest county.

“I won’t give an exact number. but it’s either two or three,” Sexton told the AP.

“I’ve never bought into the approach that having multiple people represent a big city is bad thing,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper has held the seat since 2003.

UPDATE: Andy Sher at the Chattanooga Times Free Press spoke to Sexton about whether plowing Democrats into currently safe GOP seats could make future races competitive.

“Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, which is fine. . . . Whether or not it does what people say it does, only time will tell that,” Sexton told the paper.

“It’s not unprecedented in our state where those large urban areas and congressional areas have been split . . . . We think we can do it, and we think it will be constitutional if we go that way,” Sexton said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper’s wife, Martha, dies at 66

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) announced that his wife, Martha, died Thursday after a multi-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. She was 66.

Here is the the Cooper family’s obituary:

NASHVILLE – Martha Hays Cooper died peacefully at home in Nashville on Thursday, Feb. 4, after years of struggling with Alzheimer’s. “Ookie” was married to Rep. Jim Cooper for almost 36 years, mother of their three amazing children, Mary (Scott Gallisdorfer), Jamie, and Hayes, and grandmother of the incomparable Jay.

Martha was born on Sept. 13, 1954, the second child of the late Dr. A.V. Hays and Dr. Martha Hays Taylor of Gulfport, Mississippi. Her siblings, Art Hays (Debbie) of Gaithersburg, MD, and Mary Hays Peller (Steve) of New Orleans, survive her. Martha graduated from Sweet Briar College in 1976 and from Mississippi State in 1980 with an M.S. in ornithology. Her first job was in a cubbyhole in the attic of the Natural History Museum, the Bird Division of the Smithsonian, staffing the first two editions of the million-selling National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. An adventuresome soul, Martha smoked cigars in swamps to repel mosquitoes, made lifelong friends in Buenos Aires, taught children and studied Puffins for the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, protected Least Terns on Gulf of Mexico beaches, camped in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and worked the Galápagos Islands for World Wildlife Fund, all while keeping an African-Grey parrot named Baroot in her kitchen.

Martha lived in Georgetown and drove a 1971 Robin’s-egg-blue Volvo P1800E when she met Jim, the youngest congressman in the U.S., who proposed at a White House Christmas party. Part Audrey Hepburn, Ali MacGraw, and Penelope Cruz, Martha was wary of politics until she lived in Shelbyville with Jim’s mother for a few months in 1984 to manage Jim’s first re-election campaign. The experiment worked. They married on April 6, 1985, followed by the birth of Mary Argentine in 1990, John James Audubon in 1991, and Hayes Hightower in 1995. Martha loved Mardi Gras, Galatoires (“the big G”), hurricanes and snow, peonies, Little Cayman Island, Ernie Banks, homemade popovers, Radnor Lake, friends in the Query and Centennial Clubs, Aretha Franklin and Paul McCartney, Standard Poodles (Ruby, Sirius Black, and Romeo), Cicadas, golf, City House’s belly-ham pizza, families of Crows, Prince Charles, her Cardinal-red 2003 Mini-Cooper, and the Hermitage, serving as Regent of the Ladies’ Hermitage Association. Her favorite president was Barack Obama; favorite bird: Upupa Epops.

Martha’s charm and optimism were heroic, eclipsing her illness. She ALWAYS smiled and said thank you. She loved car travel; on bumpy roads she’d say “this makes me wiggle.” In recent years, she drew wobbly hearts on everything… with a Sharpie when she could find one.

The family is grateful to Martha’s main caregiver, Sandy Mathers, her friend of 25 years, as well as newer friends, Heather Tavasti and Alyssa Action. The team at Alive Hospice was godsent. Natural burial by Feldhaus Memorial Chapel of Shelbyville and Larkspur Conservation of Nashville. Anatomical gift to the Vanderbilt Brain and Biospecimen Bank. Due to COVID, family ceremony only.

Cooper supports impeachment process against Trump

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) has announced support for impeachment proceedings to begin against President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Senate candidates Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi are trying to use the growing support for impeachment as part of their campaign efforts.

Here’s Hagerty:

And here’s Sethi:

 

On the ‘Hush Fund Elimination Act” and an age discrimination lawsuit against Duncan

While  co-sponsoring the “Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act” and enthusiastically supporting its provisions dealing with sexual harassment, the Nashville Post reports that U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Marsha Blackburn are vague on whether it should apply to settlements of other legal claims – such as a payment settling an age discrimination lawsuit brought by one of Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan’s staffers.

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Hortense Cooper, governor’s wife & congressman’s mother, dies age 98

Hortense Hayes Powell Cooper, widow of Gov. Prentice Cooper and mother of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, died Monday night at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville at age 98, according to the congressman’s office.

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Cohen, Cooper sign onto lawsuit attacking Trump’s foreign business dealings

Tennessee’s two Democratic congressmen, Reps. Steve Cohen of Memphis and Jim Cooper of Nashville, are among about 200 members of Congress signing on as plaintiffs in a federal court lawsuit that contends President Donald Trump’s foreign business dealings may violate a provision of the Constitution.

Quote from a Cooper press release:

“The Constitution says our president should be free from all foreign influence,” Rep. Cooper said. “Since President Trump shows no sign of changing, Congress must ask the courts to enforce the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.”

Quote from a Cohen press release:

“The Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause is a vital protection against foreign governments’ corrupting influence.” said Congressman Cohen. “The American people should have total confidence that the President is serving their interest, not his own financial enrichment.  President Trump’s refusal to disclose information to Congress or seek Congress’s authorization for accepting profits from foreign governments stemming from his sprawling foreign financial interests is a brazen violation of the Constitution and a danger to our democracy.”

The full Cohen press release is HERE; the full Cooper press release HERE.