Chattanooga Times Free Press: "Reps. Vincent, Wood will not compete." January 8,
Republican Reps. Bobby Wood and Jim Vincent said Monday they will not run against each other this year in the 26th District race for the Tennessee House of Representatives.
"Jim and I met and talked (Monday)," Rep Wood, R-Harrison, said. "The only agreement is that we will not run against each other."
Reps. Wood and Vincent were put into the proposed new 26th District under the Democratic Caucus redistricting plan for the Tennessee House that was released a week ago.
The plan passed the House Elections Subcommittee on Wednesday. The General Assembly opens its 2002 regular session today. The redistricting bill is set for a hearing today in the State and Local Government Committee, where approval is expected. The full House is expected to vote on the bill Thursday. If it passes, the bill would be before the Senate Monday.
Reps. Wood and Vincent were among 14 Republican representatives who were placed into seven districts under the Democratic plan.
Two Democratic representatives were put into a single district. Placing the lawmakers into the same districts had the effect of creating seven districts without an incumbent.
Under the plan, the new 31st District would not have an incumbent. It was drawn to include about 29,400 residents of eastern and northern Hamilton County and about 28,400 residents in all of Rhea County.
"Bobby and I are good friends, and we are not going to run against each other," Rep. Vincent, R-Soddy-Daisy, said. "We have options. One can run in the 31st District and the other in the 26th District. Or one can run in the 26th with the other's endorsement.
"It's too early to say what either of us will do," Rep. Vincent, a freshman lawmaker, said.
Rep. Wood, who is completing his 26th year in the Tennessee House, said both he and Rep. Vincent will examine the possibility of running in the new 31st District. He said they should decide how to proceed within two to three weeks.
Rep. Tommie Brown said she will try to get the full House to change her proposed new 28th District after the Tennessee General Assembly convenes its 2002 session on Tuesday.
House Deputy Speaker Brenda Turner, Hamilton County's senior Democrat in the House, said she will oppose Rep. Brown's planned amendment. Rep. Turner drew the portion of the state House redistricting plan that includes Hamilton County.
The House Democratic Caucus' redistricting bill is set to go before the full State and Local Government Committee this week. Approval is expected by the panel, which has a Democratic majority.
"I will be attempting to put an amendment before the committee that will address my concerns," Rep. Brown, D-Chattanooga, said during a meeting of Southeast Tennessee area state lawmakers at the Times Free Press.
Rep. Brown is the only black member of the Hamilton County legislative delegation. She has expressed displeasure that the black voting-age population in her 28th District would be 56.2 percent, which is less than the 60 percent she said is needed to ensure a black representative will be elected throughout the remainder of the decade.
Rep. Brown said she wants her district to include the Woodmore, Eastdale and Dalewood precincts, all of which are predominately black and are slated to go in Rep. Turner's 29th District.
Rep. Turner said House Democrats will discuss Rep. Brown's amendment when they meet this week.
"I will fight it, of course, and will have to get the votes to defeat it," Rep. Turner said. "We have tried to please Representative Brown, but she doesn't seem to be able to be pleased."
Rep. Turner said giving the Woodmore precinct to Rep. Brown would put more people in Rep. Brown's 28th District than the law allows. Rep. Turner said moving Woodmore would prevent her 29th District from being able to take in the airport, Kingspoint and Lake Hills precincts. She said those precincts are needed to keep her district's population totals in compliance with the law.
The amendment "would take more black population than just Woodmore out of the 29th District," Rep. Turner said. "It would take Democrats out of the 29th District. The Caucus can't go along with that. They don't want to give up Democratic seats without an election fight."
Rep. Brown said Rep. Turner could pick up population by taking in some new areas that are slated to be put in her district. Those include part of Lookout Mountain and the Riverview and two Red Bank precincts.
Rep. Brown said she has worked with a demographer, and her amendment will comply with court rulings on the one-person, one-vote provision of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
"I would never take a position to weaken the 28th District," Rep. Brown said. "All I will do is try to expand the 28th District to take in more communities of interest."
Charles Love, a Democratic precinct officer in Woodmore, said he and others want Woodmore to stay in the 29th District. He said a black would have a better chance of being elected if Woodmore stays in the 29th. As drawn, the district would have a black voting age population of 32.6 percent.
Joe Rowe, a founder of the North Brainerd Community Association, said the consensus among community organizations is that Rep. Brown would do a better job of representing Woodmore than Rep. Turner does.
Mr. Rowe said if he is available when Rep. Brown's amendment is to be heard that he would go to Nashville to speak on behalf of it.
A Democrat-designed overhaul of Tennessee congressional districts is aimed at giving the party a good chance of regaining control of the state's U.S. House delegation.
Only a dispute between three East Tennessee Republican congressmen over how to divvy up the counties allotted them by the Democrats has prevented the plan from being presented to the legislature.
If that disagreement is not resolved soon - and the congressmen involved say they are deadlocked - Democratic legislators will draw the lines without the invited Republican input, said state Rep. Randy Rinks (D-Savannah), who heads the state House redistricting committee.
"We've got to have a plan, and it's got to be a full, nine-district congressional plan," said Rinks. "If they're not going to have one (a plan), then we've got to come up with one."
From a statewide perspective, the centerpiece of the new Democratic plan is the 4th Congressional District, now held by Republican Rep. Van Hilleary, who has indicated he will run for governor rather than seek re-election.
With no incumbent and with district lines revised to increase the proportion of Democrat-leaning voters, Democrats hope one of their own will win the district this fall.
That would shift control of the state's U.S. House delegation from its present 5-4 Republican majority to a 5-4 Democratic majority and move Democrats nationwide a notch closer to their goal of taking majority control of Congress.
Revising the 4th District has a ripple effect on the rest of the state, most notably on the districts now held by Republican U.S. Reps. Bill Jenkins of Rogersville (1st District), John J. 'Jimmy' Duncan of Knoxville (2nd) and Zach Wamp of Chattanooga (3rd).
Under the plan, four Republican-leaning counties in East Tennessee - Claiborne, Grainger, Hamblen and Union - would be removed from the 4th District.
Also removed would be two counties on the western end of the current district - Hardin and Wayne - along with Bedford County in Middle Tennessee. Wayne is regarded as a Republican county, Hardin as split and Bedford as Democratic.
At the same time, the redrawn 4th District will gain five counties from the 3rd District that are more prone to vote Democratic - Bledsoe, Van Buren, Grundy, Sequatchie and Marion. A portion of Roane County, now entirely within the 3rd District, would also be added to the 4th.
Also added to the new district are Democrat-leaning Maury and Lewis counties of Middle Tennessee, now part of the 7th District.
From a partisan viewpoint, the result is a somewhat more Democratic district. Candidates are already lining up, including two Democratic state legislators, Sen. Lincoln Davis of Pall Mall and Rep. Joe Fowlkes of Pulaski.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon of Murfreesboro (6th District), senior member of the state's congressional delegation, coordinated development of the plan.
The East Tennessee Republican congressmen were told they could divide up the counties not assigned to the 4th in whatever manner they wished.
But the addition of four counties to the East Tennessee cluster in the north and the subtraction of five from the south, along with a portion of Roane in the middle, has left the GOP congressmen unable to reach an agreement.
Jenkins notes his 1st District, as now constituted, is about 3,700 votes short of being the ideal population for a congressional district, and he says it should be left intact.
"It's a complicated ball of wax," he said. "I think that fairness and common sense dictates that if there has to be anything done to the 1st District, that is add 3,700 votes, they should simply add them from a county that is adjacent to it."
Under some proposed scenarios, Wamp's new district could run from his home in Chattanooga to include Claiborne County on the Kentucky border.
"The latest discussions have me going all over the place," Wamp said.
"I feel like I'm losing some of my family members the way they've cut my district up (by removing counties under the Democratic plan)."
Duncan said the Democratic changes leave the three East Tennessee congressmen with districts that are "more Republican" than they are now. In a political sense, he said, even Wamp would thus be better off, though "travel-wise it might not be quite as good."
"I've tried to avoid getting in the middle on this thing," said Duncan, whose district lies between those of Wamp and Jenkins. "If anybody asked me, I said I wanted to keep as much of my district as possible."
Here is an outline of other districts in the state under the as-yet-unannounced Democratic plan as it stood on Friday:
The 5th District, now held by Democratic Rep. Bob Clement of Nashville, would add Cheatham County and a small bit of Wilson County while losing the portion of Robertson County that is now included. Davidson County would remain as the base of the district.
The 6th District, now held by Gordon, would lose strongly Republican Williamson County and the sliver of Wilson County while gaining Democrat-oriented Robertson and Bedford counties.
The 7th District, now held by Republican Rep. Ed Bryant of Henderson, gains Williamson, Hardin, Wayne and Decatur counties while losing Cheatham, Maury, Lewis and portions of Robertson, Montgomery, Hickman and Shelby counties.
The 8th District, now held by Democratic Rep. John Tanner of Union City, gains Decatur County and portions of Montgomery and Hickman counties while giving up precincts in Shelby.
The 9th District, now held by Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr., expands within Shelby County into areas now part of the 7th and 8th District.
Most of the expansion is to the north, into Tanner's current district.
Rinks said legislators, acting on the advice of attorneys, have set Feb. 1 as the target date for having the all three redistricting plans - state House, state Senate and U.S. House - enacted into law.
Democrats hold majorities in both the state House and Senate - assuring eventual enactment even with a potential override by Republican Gov. Don Sundquist - so long as they remain united.
A Democrat-designed state House plan has already been presented, but haggling continues behind doors over a state Senate redistricting plan.
Rinks indicated the lines may be drawn by computer if no East Tennessee congressional agreement is forthcoming and the task is left to legislators.
Under most East Tennessee scenarios discussed, Jenkins would gain at least Hamblen County from what was 4th District turf and likely lose at least part of Sevier County to Duncan. Wamp would pick up other portions carved out of the 4th District.
"I certainly hope they don't spread me out into every nook and cranny, so my district is spread all around. But it looks like that's what they're trying to do," Wamp said.
It's against the law to steal your vote. For the most part, legislators of honor would not do it just as a matter of conscience, even without law. But strangely, there are many political partisans who have no hesitation whatsoever about taking action that steals the representation that your vote is supposed to assure you.
They do it by rigging election districts to produce predetermined results.
The Constitution of the United States requires a census every 10 years for the purpose of dividing today's 435 seats of the U.S. House of Representatives so each will represent approximately the same number of citizens.
Each state's Legislature is empowered, indeed is required by the Constitution and directed by a Supreme Court ruling, to provide congressional representation on the basis of "one man (or woman), one vote." In addition, legislatures are required to draw state House of Representatives districts and state Senate districts on a nearly equal population basis, too. Local governmental bodies are supposed to do the same for their council and commission members.
Redistricting is a difficult job when done with the most honorable intent. It is desirable to have districts of compact geographic area, with similar interests among their people, avoiding splitting various political subdivisions.
Good redistricting is neither an art nor a science. Bad redistricting often results in "gerrymandering," the drawing of districts of grotesque shapes on other than fair grounds for the purpose of favoring the politicians who have the majority power in the body that is doing the redistricting.
Ten years ago, when Tennessee's Legislature last redistricted for the 99 seats in the state House, the majority Democrats engaged in representation theft by putting 12 incumbent Republican legislators in six new districts. That was done, obviously, to politically kill off half of them without beating them by winning more votes at the polls.
That was an outrage, but it prevailed. Now, House Democrats are trumping their previous wrongdoing by proposing 2002 state House redistricting to put 14 Republicans into seven districts, thereby conveniently disposing of seven of them.
Among the Republicans listed by the Democrats for a single district are Hamilton County's Rep. Bobby Wood and Rep. Jim Vincent, two very honorable, outstanding and conservative representatives. In fact, the characteristic that seems common among the 14, in addition to their being Republicans, is the fact they are politically conservative.
Isn't that corruption of the spirit of democratic (little "d") government? Of course it is! But if allowed to stand, it will increase the power of Democratic (big "D") government, as Democrats seek to steal the representation of many Tennesseans.
But conservative Republicans are not the only ones complaining. Hamilton County's liberal Democratic Rep. Tommie Brown objects because her proposed new district would add many traditionally conservative white voters to her predominantly liberal black constituency. "What the Democrats have done to me abridges all the trust that we as African-Americans have given to the party over the years," Rep. Brown said. "I am very disturbed. I felt I would be given fair treatment."
The Democratic legislative majority can do pretty much whatever it wants. Democratic Rep. Brown and some Republicans are considering court challenges. But that shouldn't be necessary. Fairness, if not total satisfaction, should prevail simply as a matter of honor and justice.
There would be a loud outcry if someone were detected stuffing a ballot box. The offender would go to jail. But when it comes to redistricting, the effects of vote stealing are put into practice in the light of day and the perpetrators generally get away with it. And the voters whose fair representation is thus denied remain victimized for another 10 years.
Some state House Republicans charged yesterday that a new redistricting plan proposed by Democrats will push them out of office as punishment for opposition to a state income tax.
But the Democrats' leader in the House said taxes were never an issue in drawing new district boundary maps.
''This is partisan politics at its worst. It's dirty politics,'' Rep. Mark Goins, R-LaFollette, told an elections subcommittee of the House State and Local Government Committee minutes before it adopted the Democrats' plan.
''You're getting rid of seven votes who would have been against an income tax.''
In the Democrats' plan, 14 Republican incumbents would be placed in seven districts. The incumbent in one of the 14 GOP districts is running for Shelby County mayor instead of seeking re-election.
The redrawn districts will aid income tax advocates, said Goins, who also complained that Democrats shut out Republicans and the public from the process.
''The public was excluded, colleagues left out and the media shut out,'' said Goins, who said he plans to run for re-election although his new district pits him against a fellow Republican incumbent.
House Democratic leaders quickly defended their plan, saying the income tax was not an issue.
''That never came into consideration,'' said House Majority Leader Gene Davidson, D-Adams.
Rep. Randy Rinks, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, countered that House Republicans drew up their own redistricting plan in secret and did not invite Democrats, the news media and the public to those meetings. No Republican plan has been made public.
Redistricting of state House, state Senate and U.S. congressional districts occurs every 10 years to account for population changes. The process is controlled by Democrats because they hold majorities in both houses of the legislature.
Middle Tennessee gains three House seats under the plan at the expense of Shelby County, rural East Tennessee and rural West Tennessee.
The 10 districts in Davidson County also change, with the Green Hills and Oak Hill neighborhoods to be shared by several lawmakers. Democratic leaders said a population boom in south Nashville caused the new districts to be drawn that way.
Much of the Green Hills-Oak Hill area had been represented by Rep. Beth Harwell, state GOP chairwoman and the only Republican House member from Nashville.
The House Democratic plan is expected to move quickly through the General Assembly, which convenes for its new session on Tuesday.
House leaders would like to have the plan up for a floor vote a week from today.
The subcommittee also sent state Senate and U.S. Congress plans to the full State and Local Government Committee, even though its members have not seen maps showing new boundaries.
''We're trying to move this process forward,'' said the subcommittee's chairwoman, Rep. Edith Taylor Langster, D-Nashville. She said the plans are overdue but coming soon.
Reps. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet and Diane Black of Hendersonville are the only Nashville-area Republicans placed in the same district.
Black's neighborhood in Hendersonville was trimmed out of her Sumner County district and attached to Beavers' district, which includes parts of Wilson and Rutherford counties. The remainder of Black's current district would become a new district without an incumbent.
''That's unfair to pluck out the best part of Hendersonville, where I live, and put it with Mt. Juliet Ö to punish the representative that lives there,'' Black said.
Beavers has said she plans to run in her district, but Black said she is unsure of her plans.
Both women said they believe they were targeted because of their anti-income tax stance.
Black said she believes the ''power kingdom'' of legislative leadership felt threatened because she showed she could be an effective leader and one who ''is articulate, intelligent and shows you can change the status quo.''
Bonna de la Cruz covers state government. She can be reached at [email protected] tennessean.com or (615) 726-4892.
A lawsuit is likely on the Democratic redistricting plan for the Tennessee House that was approved by the Election Subcommittee on Wednesday, but the challenge may not prevail, said Rep. Bobby Wood, R-Harrison.
The redistricting plan will be heard in full State and Local Government Committee soon after the General Assembly convenes Tuesday. The plan puts Reps. Wood and Jim Vincent, R-Soddy-Daisy, into the 26th District, while leaving the new 31st District without an incumbent.
"I believe a lawsuit will be filed," said Rep. Wood. "It (redistricting plan) may stand. The Democrats were very meticulous in putting it together."
Rep. Wood said he has not decided if he will seek election in the 26th District or if he will run for the seat in the open 31st District, which includes the eastern and northern parts of Hamilton County and all of Rhea County.
He said he will not face Rep. Vincent in the Republican primary. "Jim and I would not run against each other," Rep. Wood said.
The House subcommittee put the redistricting map on a fast track for passage, despite protests from Republicans. The plan would squeeze 14 Republicans into seven districts. It is expected to be one of the first bills passed when the Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes. Democrats enjoy a 57-42 majority in the House, and an 18-15 majority in the Senate.
The Elections Subcommittee, where Democrats enjoy an 8-3 majority, approved the new map on a voice vote after Republicans committee members groused about the secretive process under which the plan was drawn.
"This is dirty politics. This is partisan politics at its worst," said Rep. Mark Goins, R-LaFollette, who was put into the new 36th District with Rep. William Baird, R-Jacksboro. "I wasn't invited to any of the meetings, and no one asked my input."
Rep. Jack Sharp, R-East Ridge, a member of the Elections Subcommittee, said the Republican House map "is far more fair to the voting public" than is the Democratic map. He conceded he has not seen the GOP map.
"I've only seen the part that was involved in my own district and the districts that were adjacent to my own. Frankly, as far as my district is concerned, the Democratic plan favors me more than the Republican plan," he said.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Randy Rinks, D-Savannah, said the committee process would ensure that the new maps got a proper public airing. Rep. Rinks said Republicans drew their House map in secret, without input from Democrats, and appear unwilling to make public the GOP plan.
"It's like any other bill that is drawn up down here. Everybody gets to offer amendments and everybody has a vote on this bill," Rep. Rinks said.
House Minority Leader Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, on Wednesday delayed action on the Republican map for two weeks. He said he hasn't made his GOP House map available for public scrutiny because it has yet to be completed.
"We plan to present one either in the committee or on the floor, knowing full well who has most of the marbles," he said. "I dare say it will be more fair than what the Democrats have presented to the Republicans."
Redrawing the lines of state House and Senate and congressional districts is required every 10 years to account for population shifts recorded in the U.S. Census.
Congressional and state Senate maps have not been made public. However, the Elections Subcommittee passed caption bills supporting the new maps, and that cleared the way for a floor vote as early as next week, when session reconvenes.
The Tennessee House Elections Subcommittee is expected to meet this afternoon to review the Democrats' proposed redistricting map that squeezes 14 House Republicans into seven districts.
Republicans across the state have denounced the redistricting plan -- first made public on New Year's Eve -- as the blatantly partisan product of a highly secretive process.
"They went after 14 of the most conservative Republicans in the House," said Rep. Chris Clem, R-Lookout Mountain. "There is not a moderate among them. They did do a pretty good job of sticking it to us."
Two Hamilton County Republican representatives are among the political casualties. Reps. Jim Vincent, R-Soddy-Daisy, and Bobby Wood, R-Harrison, were both put in the new 26th House District, which lies in the middle of Hamilton County.
The 31st district, which has been held by Rep. Vincent, would be an open seat that stretches through eastern Hamilton County from the Georgia border in the south to include all of neighboring Rhea County to the north.
Republicans have threatened legal action if the new maps pass the Tennessee House, which is widely expected because Democrats hold a 57-42 majority.
"That plan will pass the House" Rep. Vincent said.
"This is business as usual for a Democratic Caucus that does things behind closed doors without input from the minority party. I'd say the probability of a lawsuit is very, very likely," said John Ryder, the Republican National Committeeman for Tennessee.
However, House Democratic leaders believe their new maps can withstand a court challenge.
"The plan put forth by the majority caucus ensures that each Tennessean's vote counts and that all other legal guidelines have been met," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Randy Rinks of Savannah.
Redistricting is required every 10 years to account for population changes in the state. The new lines are drawn based, in part, on the recently compiled U.S. Census data. As a result, Middle Tennessee will gain three new House seats because of population growth in that grand division. Under the Democratic plan, Shelby County, rural West Tennessee and upper East Tennessee each would lose one seat because of population decreases.
An ideal House district would have 57,467 people in it, and deviation for each individual district should be no more than 5 percent either way. The largest districts proposed by Democrats has a population of 60,176 and the smallest has 54,433 people.
The Elections Subcommittee is scheduled today to review the proposed new maps for the state Senate and congressional districts, but those maps have yet to be made public.
House Minority Leader Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, said the new Democrat House map is "pretty much like the 1992 redistricting plan," when 12 Republicans were squeezed into six House districts.
"I can empathize with those members who have been paired with another incumbent Republican because I was one in 1992," Rep. McDaniel said. "This is what I expected to see because partisan politics is always a part of the redistricting plan in the House."
Rep. McDaniel said House Republicans likely will bring their own redistricting plan forward, although he conceded that it probably won't go far in the Democratic-controlled House.
Some of the affected Republicans say they suspect that Democrats have targeted them because of their outspoken opposition to a state income tax, which is favored by House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington.
"I'm against an income tax and the speaker is for an income tax," said Rep. Mark Goins, R-LaFollette, who was placed in House District 36 with Rep. William Baird, R-Jacksboro.
"Tennesseans are getting tired of the liberal policies of the Democrats, who realize they can't keep a majority unless they resort to tactics like this," Rep. Goins said. "This is a political chess game to keep a majority of Tennesseans that the Democrats really don't represent."
Democrats took the wraps off their plan for reapportioning the state House of Representatives yesterday and, to the surprise of no one, aimed it at tightening Democratic control by cramming 12 Republican incumbents into six House districts.
''We have lost six seats and we haven't had a single election,'' said Nashville state representative and GOP chairwoman Beth Halteman Harwell after viewing the multicolored reapportionment maps.
Reps. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet and Diane Black of Hendersonville are the only Nashville-area Republicans placed in the same district.
The legislature convenes in regular session Monday and is expected to deal with legislative and congressional redistricting issues early. The Senate probably will announce its plan for shaping its 33 districts next week.
Democrats hold 57 of the 99 House seats, and the Republicans hold 42. By law, lawmakers must draw new district boundaries after every 10-year census.
''I worry about redistricting and whether it's based fairly on population and formulas required,'' said Shelley Ames, a Hendersonville resident who votes in Black's current district.
Beaver's district lines were redrawn to take in Black's Sumner County home. Beavers now has parts of Wilson and Rutherford counties.
''I wonder how the interests of Hendersonville match those of Wilson County,'' Ames said.
Harwell said the party had not decided whether to challenge the plan in court.
The Judicial branch is generally hesitant to interfere in partisan disputes as long as certain requirements, such as drawing districts with almost equal population, are met, but Memphis Republican John Ryder, a lawyer and member of the Republican National Committee, said, ''A lawsuit is a very high probability.
''This is two times they have done this, which obviously gives rise to the charge that it is a political gerrymander.
''I think it is probably vulnerable to legal challenge on a number of different grounds. I think they have overemphasized race in the creation of minority districts.''
Referring to legal guidelines that apply to population growth and shifts within the state, Ryder added: ''There may even be a population challenge. Just because you are under 10% (variation) don't mean that you are home free.''
But Robert B. Corney, former state Democratic Party executive director, said he felt confident the plan would survive any court challenge.
''We have been working with the (state) attorney general to ensure that we met all federal and state guidelines,'' Corney said.
He said the plan meets the three major requirements ó no district is more than 5% above or 5% below the ideal population of 57,467, no more than 30 counties are split, and the plan calls for the required number of minority districts ó 14.
At 60,176, the most populous district is that of Rep. Stratton Bone, D-Lebanon, and the least populous is that of House Majority Leader Gene Davidson, D-Adams, at 54,433.
Corney said House members of both parties were consulted, but Beavers disputed that; she said she was never asked for input and was targeted.
''They've been telling me for two years they would do this to me if I didn't shut up against an income tax,'' she said.
House Minority Leader Steve McDaniel of Parkers' Crossroads said he was not surprised by the Democrats' exercise of raw power.
''I have to have an attorney to look at it, but on the surface it looks as if it meets the constitutional requirements but has lot of gerrymandering,'' he said.
The plan also shifts three seats to the Midstate, two at the expense of West Tennessee and one at the expense of East Tennessee.
The explosive growth in Nashville's suburbs will mean new House seats in Montgomery, Sumner and Rutherford counties.
Corney said there is no guarantee these three new districts, which have no incumbents, will vote for Democrats. There is much less emphasis on party identification and much more on the candidate and issues, he said.
There are 16 counties statewide required to have more than one representative because they are too large, he said.
Copies of the plan were sent to all members of the House yesterday by express mail. Members of the Capitol Hill Press Corps were briefed on the plan by Corney, who is serving as a consultant to the House Democratic Caucus.
The Elections Subcommittee of the House State and Local Government Committee will begin hearings on the Democrats' House plan as well as other House and congressional redistricting plans tomorrow. However, the Democrats' plan appears to be the one that will ultimately be approved with few, if any, changes.
''There is no Plan B,'' was the way Ellen Tewes, the state lawyer advising the House on reapportionment, put it.
In addition to Beavers and Black, the Republican incumbents placed in a single district are Reps. Steve Godsey of Blountville and Jason Mumpower of Bristol, District 3; Reps. Bill Dunn of Knoxville and Jim Boyer of Corryton, District 19; Reps. Bobby Wood of Harrison and Jim Vincent of Soddy Daisy, District 26; Reps. William Baird of Jacksboro and Mark Goins of LaFollette, District 36; and Reps. Tre' Hargett of Bartlett and W. C. Pleasant of Arlington, District 97.
Dunn said that although he does not like the idea of running against a colleague, he plans to challenge Boyer.
He said he also was targeted by Democrats who drew the plan and swapped two voting precincts in his current district, including the one he lives in, with a few precincts in Boyer's.
''They'll do what they want to do as part of a political game, and you have to play with the cards you're dealt,'' Dunn said.
His current district is now an open seat.
''I made a conscious decision to do what I thought was right and not be ordered around by the people in Nashville and special interests; so I knew this would happen to me,'' Dunn said.
Harwell, the Republican chairwoman, said parts of her current district are being taken over by three Democrats ó Reps. Mary Pruitt, Edith Taylor Langster and Rob Briley.
''This is not what reapportionment is supposed to be about,'' Harwell said.
''They are bringing them in as fingers into my old district, giving them parts of Green Hills. The city of Oak Hill will be split two or three ways. The Green Hills area will be split at least two ways. That is not good representation. Cities and communities should be held together as much as possible, and that isn't happening in Davidson County. That is gerrymandering.''
Langster and two other Nashville lawmakers, Reps. John Arriola and Sherry Jones, said they were not completely satisfied with their new districts but understood why they needed to be redrawn.
''Most of the growth has been to the south,'' Langster said. ''The redistricting plan has been drawn to reflect that population growth. Under the new plan I will pick up Christ the King School, part of Green Hills and Belmont University.
''I'll lose a small box on Heiman Street (in north Nashville), St. Vincent DePaul School. It is a personal loss because I attended St. Vincent DePaul School, but they are getting excellent representation for the person who is going to pick it up, Representative Mary Pruitt.
''Everybody has to pick up and lose something. In an ideal world you get to keep everything you want to keep, but we don't live in an ideal world.''
Arriola said no one is completely happy with the plan, ''so it must be fair.''
Arriola is picking up more area along Franklin Road, more of Crieve Hall and some of Oak Hill, including the governor's official residence.
He will lose some of the area along the I-440 stretch and Nolensville Pike area and some of the Glenview area between Murfreesboro Road and Briley Parkway.
Jones said she will represent a less populous district than she does now. ''I'm just moving farther south,'' she said.
''I'm losing a part of my district over on Harding Place and my box up at Ellington Agriculture Center. We all had to pick up new things because everybody had to shift around.''
Ten of the 99 seats in the Tennessee House of Representatives are in Davidson County, and nine of them are held by Democrats. Rep. Beth H. Harwell is the only Republican in the county delegation.
Here are the representatives by district and the general area they now serve:
District 50: Tim Garrett, Goodlettsville
District 51: Mike Turner, Old Hickory
District 52: Rob Briley, east Nashville
District 53: John Arriola, Woodbine
District 54: Edith Langster, Bordeaux
District 55: Gary Odom, West Meade
District 56: Beth H. Harwell, Green Hills
District 58: Mary Pruitt, downtown
District 59: Sherry Jones, Hickory Hollow
District 60: Ben West Jr., Hermitage
Fourteen Republican legislators are paired with each other into seven districts under the redistricting plan for the state House of Representatives proposed Monday by the House Democratic majority.
Four of them are in Shelby County: Reps. Tre' Hargett (R-Bartlett) and W. C. 'Bubba' Pleasant (R-Arlington) would be together in a new House District 97. Reps. Larry Scroggs (R-Germantown) and Curry Todd (R-Collierville) would be paired into a new District 95.
If the redistricting plan is approved intact, it could strip the House of up to seven Republicans and build on the Democrats' current 57-42 majority in the House. However, some of those paired with their GOP colleagues could run in other districts. And Scroggs has announced he is running for Shelby County mayor.
Memphis Republican and lawyer John Ryder said that a GOP court challenge of the plan is "highly, highly probable" because the Democrats "may have engaged in political gerrymandering."
Ryder, one of two Tennesseans on the Republican National Committee, was successful in a federal court challenge of the legislative redistricting that followed the 1990 Census.
In the 1992 plan, 12 House Republicans were combined into six House districts, but the portion of the plan that was overturned resulted in the creation of a new majority-black district in rural West Tennessee.
Lawyers and consultants for the House Democratic Caucus said Monday they believe the plan will withstand legal challenges but one of the consultants, Bob Corney, acknowledged that one of the goals of the plan was to maintain the Democratic majority.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Randy Rinks of Savannah said, "This is a serious and difficult process with very strict federal and state legal guidelines. The plan put forth by the majority caucus . . . ensures that each Tennessean's vote counts and that all other legal guidelines have been met."
The redistricting plan will undergo its first hurdle Wednesday when the House Elections Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing here at 1 p.m.
The state legislature is required to redraw boundaries for the 99 state House, 33 state Senate and Tennessee's congressional districts every 10 years following the U.S. Census to make sure they are roughly equal in population to comply with the constitutional "one person, one vote" mandate. New maps for state Senate districts and Tennessee's nine congressional districts still are being drafted.
The proposed state House district map shifts three seats into the rapidly growing ring of counties surrounding Nashville - one each in Montgomery, Sumner and Rutherford counties - at the expense of Shelby County, rural West Tennessee and a region in East Tennessee that did not grow as much as the state as a whole.
Under the Democratic plan, Shelby County would lose one of its 17 House seats: District 99 in northeastern Shelby County would be shifted into a new District 99 composed of all of Fayette County and parts of Tipton and Hardeman counties. The plan places Pleasant in the same new District 97 with Hargett.
Pleasant said Monday that he and Hargett are friends who have worked together in the House but, "as of right now, I plan on running" again.
Hargett said he will examine all his options before deciding whether to seek re-election.
"A year ago, I might have been upset by something like this but with everything that's happened to our country in the past few months, this pales by comparison. And to be frank, I'm far more concerned about how we're going to settle the fiscal discussions than about these district lines."
Legally, candidates for the state House can run for a district that they don't live in as long as they live in the same county as the district and establish their legal residence inside the district after winning the election.
Although Scroggs and Todd are in the same district, they will likely avoid a Republican primary faceoff because Scroggs is running for county mayor.
Aside from those four lawmakers, most of the other Shelby County House districts are basically left intact, although most of them shift toward the east as a result of the county's eastward growth.
A newly drawn House District 94, cutting a swath from northeast Memphis to the Shelby-Tipton county line, is an open seat without an incumbent residing in it.
There are major changes proposed by the plan in West Tennessee outside of Shelby County, including the new District 99, also a new open seat with no incumbent living in it.
North of Memphis, House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington) appears to be made politically safer by the proposal. His District 81 currently includes all of Tipton and the northern one-third of Fayette County but, under the plan, would drop the heavily Republican areas of Munford and Atoka in south central Tipton and pick up all of Haywood County.
The majority black District 80, created as a result of the Republican challenge of the last redistricting plan, would remain a majority black district in Madison and Hardeman counties.
Ryder said it is too early to tell, since the maps were publicly released only Monday, whether the Democrats' claims that the plan is constitutional are true.
"This invidious pairing of Republican incumbents two decades in a row indicates they may have engaged in political gerrymandering. Facially, it appears they have violated the 14th Amendment rights of Republicans in the state again," Ryder said.
Federal courts have prohibited a population variance of more than 10 percent from the smallest to the largest district and state courts have ruled that no more than 30 of Tennessee's 95 counties may be split into separate districts.
The plan creates eight districts statewide without incumbents living in them and there is no guarantee, Corney said, that Democrats will win them.
Contact Nashville Bureau chief Richard Locker at (615) 255-4923.
Fourteen Tennessee House Republicans have been squeezed into seven districts under a redistricting plan made public on New Year's Eve by the majority House Democratic Caucus.
Two Hamilton County lawmakers were among the political casualties. Reps. Bobby Wood, R-Harrison, and Jim Vincent, R-Soddy-Daisy, were combined into the new District 26, which lies in the middle of Hamilton County. A new 31st District, which has been held by Rep. Vincent, is now an open seat that stretches from the Georgia border and covers all of neighboring Rhea County.
Rep. Vincent said the Democratic Caucus targeted conservative Republicans.
"We were the most vocal on cutting cost of government and opposing an income tax," he said. "I was a bit surprised I was on that radar screen. I'm disappointed and hurt about it, but I'm not mad. I love my district. I hate it's gone. It's a sad day for our end of the county."
Doug Hines, a Tennessee Legislative Legal Services attorney, said either Rep. Wood or Rep. Vincent could run for the open 31st District seat without moving from his residence. However, if either won the open seat, he would have to move into the district before the start of the 103rd General Assembly in January 2003.
Rep. Vincent said the plan will pass the House. The new plan -- similar to the consolidation of 12 Republicans into six districts during the last redistricting in 1992 -- has state GOP leaders threatening legal action.
"This is blatant political gerrymandering that probably violates the standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court," said John Ryder, Republican national committeeman for Tennessee.
"The fact is that Democrats have done this for two decades in a row to perpetuate the systematic exclusion of Republicans from the political process, and that gives us a sound basis for a lawsuit," Mr. Ryder said.
Ellen Tewes, chief legal counsel for the Tennessee General Assembly, said she's confident the new map will withstand a court challenge.
"This plan follows the letter of the law," she said. "The law mandates respect for the Voting Rights Act, and one-person one-vote, and this plan does that. The law requires 30 or fewer county splits, and this plan does that. This plan meets all legal requirements."
The affected lawmakers are:
Reps. Wood and Vincent in District 26
Reps. Bill Dunn and Jim Boyer, both of Knox County, in District 19
Reps. Steve Godsey and Jason Mumpower, both of Sullivan County, in District 3
Reps. Diane Black of Sumner County and Mae Beavers of Wilson County in District 57
Reps. William Baird and Mark Goins, both of Campbell County, in District 36
Reps. Tre' Hargett and Bubba Pleasant, both of Shelby County, in District 97
Reps. Curry Todd and Larry Scroggs, both of Shelby County, whose districts have been combined into District 95. However, Rep. Scroggs is not seeking re-election.
Democratic Reps. Ronnie Cole of Dyersburg and Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley, whose districts have been combined into District 82. However, Rep. Cole is not seeking re-election.
Consolidating the 16 representatives into eight districts creates eight open seats in November's general election.
The House Elections Subcommittee will meet Wednesday in Nashville to review the new map. The plan is expected to face ardent opposition from Republicans when the General Assembly reconvenes Jan. 8. However, the new map could pass easily on a party-line vote, because Democrats hold a 57-42 majority in the 99-member House.
House Minority Leader Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, said the new Democratic map "isn't surprising."
"I wanted to see what (the Democrats') plan was, to see if it was something we could live with, but obviously it doesn't treat Republicans equally with Democrats," Rep. McDaniel said. "I don't think their plan is one most Republicans will want to vote for, and I believe Republican members of the House will want to present a plan of their own, which won't pass, of course."
Redistricting is required every 10 years to account for population changes in the state. The new lines are drawn based in part on the recently compiled U.S. Census data. As a result, Middle Tennessee will gain three new House seats because of population growth in that grand division. Shelby County, rural West Tennessee, and upper East Tennessee each will lose one seat because of population decreases.
An ideal House district would have 57,467 people in it, and deviation for each individual district should be no more than 5 percent either way. The largest district proposed by Democrats has a population of 60,176 and the smallest has 54,433 people.
State Senate and congressional redistricting maps have yet to be made public.
Bob Corney, a consultant hired by the House Democratic Caucus to facilitate the redistricting, conceded that politics was a factor in drawing the new lines, but only after legal requirements were met.
"Politics is a consideration," said Mr. Corney, the former executive director of the Tennessee Democratic Party. "But if you look at the overall process, first priority is the one-person, one-vote. The second issue is this, it is an open process. This is a process that comes before the General Assembly. The last consideration is from the majority caucus perspective and that is to maintain a majority," Mr. Corney said.
Brad Todd, a consultant with the House Republican Caucus, blasted the timing of the release of the new maps.
"Releasing this on New Year's Eve follows the Democratic pattern of doing everything in secret," he said. "It is the equivalent of doing it in the middle of the political night."
Some Nashvillians would be shifted into new state House districts, including one that could put some Green Hills residents in with downtown voters, as part of a redistricting plan now on the drawing boards in the legislature.
Aside from district changes in Davidson County, a shift in population since 1990 will move one state Senate seat from Memphis to Middle Tennessee and three House seats from less populous parts of the state to the Nashville suburbs.
Every 10 years, the legislature redraws political boundaries for the state House and Senate and for U.S. congressional seats, based on population figures from the U.S. Census.
The aim is to keep as many counties as possible undivided and to create districts with as nearly equal population totals as possible.
And with Democrats in control of the General Assembly, districts are being drawn to protect Democratic incumbents, particularly African-Americans, in the next election and future ones.
Legislators convene Jan. 8 after about four months off and are expected to vote on the new boundaries in the first week.
Leaders drawing the maps don't intend to make them public until shortly before they go to a committee vote on Jan. 8, said Rep. Randy Rinks, D-Savannah, the Democratic Caucus chairman who is coordinating the House plan.
Rinks said that district lines remain fluid and that he did not want to release tentative maps that would needlessly alarm members and the public because the maps could change.
Members are being shown proposed changes to their districts, and state Rep. Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said she doesn't like what Democrats are doing to her.
Harwell, the only Republican House member in Nashville, represents all of Belle Meade, Green Hills, Oak Hill, Forest Hills and portions of Bellevue and Crieve Hall, parts of town that have seen tremendous growth.
Under a leading proposal, Green Hills and Oak Hill would be sliced into four parts and distributed to Democrat-controlled districts.
''I want to hold those communities together,'' said Harwell, who has represented the district since 1989. ''I don't think the community of Green Hills wants to be split up. I don't think the city of Oak Hill wants to be split up, much less three or four ways.''
Coleman McGinnis, associate political science professor at Tennessee State University, said it sounds like Democrats are gerrymandering, a term used to describe the way a political district is drawn to give one party an advantage.
''That happens,'' Rinks said, ''because we're trying to draw maps the incumbents can run in and win and because they're the ones going to vote on the plan.''
McGinnis said it appears Democrats are trying to stick it to Harwell, in part because she is the state Republican Party chairman.
''They would love to send her out to pasture. That's the name of the game.''
Rep. John Arriola, D-Nashville, who is coordinating the Davidson County plan, said there is no attempt to target Harwell.
Harwell's newly drawn district would remain Republican and still include Belle Meade, adding the Cane Ridge part of Antioch.
John Stern of the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance said whether neighborhoods are benefiting is not clear, mainly because no one has seen maps.
''What's really important is to get citizen input in the state legislative redistricting process.''
Weststate senators are jockeying to retain favorable districts as they shift to accommodate growth in Middle Tennessee.
And two House Republicans could end up in the same district as Democrats create three seats, one each in Williamson, Rutherford and Sumner counties.
One proposal has a new Senate district created in Maury and Marshall counties, which state Rep. Bobby Sands, D-Columbia, could run in, said Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood.
She currently represents those counties plus Williamson, but may have to trade Marshall and Maury for parts of Davidson and Rutherford counties, she said.
Harwell said she doesn't like the idea of cherry picking a few Nashville precincts and giving them to the Williamson County senator.
''That damages the ability of the Republican Party in Davidson County.''
Under the House proposal:
ï Rep. Ben West's, district in east and south Davidson is too populated. The Democrat probably will keep Hermitage and Donelson and lose Cane Ridge to Harwell.
ï Rep. Edith Langster, D-Nashville, who represents TSU and parts of downtown, would be given about 1,400 people around the Mall at Green Hills and Richard Jones Road.
ï Rep. Mary Pruitt, D-Nashville, who represents downtown and east Nashville to Fatherland Avenue, would shift west and add parts of the Belmont University area out to Woodmont Boulevard.
ï Rep. Rob Briley, D-Nashville, who represents east Nashville, also would move west to take in the Lipscomb University area.
ï Arriola probably would take the northern part of Oak Hill.
Georgia legislators say they are in for a contentious 2002 session because of lingering ill feelings from the General Assembly's special sessions on redistricting.
"This (redistricting) plan is the greatest sin ever perpetuated against the people of Georgia," said Sen. Don Thomas, R-Dalton. "The Republicans had no input into this process. The plan was to do away with as many Republicans as they could.
"It certainly will affect relations," Sen. Thomas said. "People are not going to forget it."
Rep. Tom Shanahan, D-Calhoun, said Republicans should not be upset that redistricting did not go their way.
"I don't think either side has the high road here," he said. "I have seen on a number of occasions issues that should have been bipartisan that were turned into a partisan fight by the minority party.
"Reapportionment is the most political process in politics," Rep. Shanahan said. "There was disappointment, but I would hope and expect us to set that aside and focus on what is best for the citizens of Georgia. I hope that would not affect the business of the state."
Sen. Richard Marable, D-Rome, said Democratic and Republican members should be able to work together on issues where there is philosophical agreement. He said redistricting dealt with more than partisan politics.
"The Democrats fought among themselves," he said. "It was people fighting over their area, looking after their particular region.
"I don't see any difference in the positions we will take on some things," Sen. Marable said. "We will find ourselves side by side on various issues."
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Dalton, said redistricting was "mean-spirited." He said some districts were drawn so two incumbents will have to face each other in elections next year.
"It will create some ill will," Rep. Williams said. "It's going to affect this upcoming session."
Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said redistricting was designed to keep power in the hands of Democratic lawmakers, who have majorities in both the House and Senate.
"Will there be ill will? Absolutely," Sen. Mullis said. "There will be animosity."
Rep. Allen Hammontree, R-Cohutta, said he hopes party members set differences aside. "Life is too short, and I am too blessed to be negatively affected by anything that goes on in politics," he said.
Rep. Ron Forster, R-Ringgold, said more than half the counties in Georgia were split under the plan for new state House districts. He said most of the recommendations citizens made during seven public hearings were ignored.
However, he said relations might not be too strained. "I don't think it will be as bitter as it might seem in the next session," he said. The next election, Rep. Forster said, is when redistricting will become a contentious issue.
Rep. Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, said bitterness is a byproduct of redistricting. "I don't see it interfering with this (2002) session," she said.
E-mail Michael Finn at [email protected]
A federal judge has dismissed a Republican lawsuit asking for a speedup in the adoption of new Tennessee congressional and state legislative district lines for next year's elections.
The lawsuit, filed in late August, charged that candidates would be denied due process if they aren't notified of the new lines 90 days before the April 4 filing deadline.
The suit said the state General Assembly will not reconvene until Jan. 8 and the GOP leaders predicted it would take at least four weeks to pass a bill.
In recent decades, Tennessee legislators have delayed acting on redistricting until the session at the start of the year in which the elections are held.
Upholding a state motion to dismiss the lawsuit, U.S. Dist. Judge Bernice Donald ruled that "no federal court has ever recognized a voter's right to notice of a new apportionment plan 90 days before the candidate qualifying deadline."
The suit had asked that the court move ahead and adopt a new districting plan.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, Memphis attorney John Ryder, representing five GOP officials from across the state who filed the suit, said fairness called for action to be taken to put a plan into place.
"Let the voters know where the district lines are so candidates can make a decision to run or not run," he said. "You can't put together a campaign for a district position without knowing what the districts are."
Monday night, Ryder said he had not seen the decision and could not comment.
Ryder, a Republican National Committee member, filed one of two successful federal court lawsuits that challenged redistricting plans enacted after the 1990 Census.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years after each federal census. State and federal laws require that districts be balanced in population to provide equal representation.
After the lawsuit was filed, a three-judge panel was appointed to handle the case.
Primary elections in the congressional and state legislative races will be held Aug. 1 and the general election is Nov. 5.
In 1992, the General Assembly approved a legislative redistricting plan on April 28 and a congressional plan on May 6.
This time, lawmakers have said they are planning to have new lines virtually drawn by the time the assembly opens in January.
Democratic legislative leaders say they will have new legislative and congressional district lines drawn by the time the lawmakers convene in regular session Jan. 8, but some Republicans say that's not soon enough.
Besides, the GOP still is smarting from a decade ago when the Democrat-controlled state House and Senate stacked 12 Republican state House members into six districts.
There has been some talk among legislative leaders of calling a special legislative session in late October to deal with the reapportionment issue, but no decision has been made.
Tax opponents fear leaders will attempt to include a search for revenue in the special session if one is called. The call could be issued by the speakers of the two houses, Lt. Gov. John Wilder and House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh.
A recent lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Memphis is giving impetus for the legislature to move sooner than planned on drawing new district lines that reflect state population shifts during the past 10 years.
The lawsuit, filed by a group of Republican leaders, says there is no way the legislature can enact redistricting plans in time for voters and candidates to have ''fair warning'' of the district lines for the 2002 election. Consequently, they are asking that the new lines be drawn by a panel of three federal judges.
The House and Senate have appointed special committees to spearhead the reapportionment effort. Sen. Jo Ann Graves, D-Gallatin, heads the Senate committee.
Others on the committee are: Senate Minority Leader Ben Atchley, R-Knoxville, GOP Caucus Chairman Bill Clabough, R-Maryville, Senate Majority Leader Ward Crutchfield, D-Chattanooga, and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Haynes, D-Goodlettsville.
Heading the House committee is Rep. Randy Rinks, D-Savannah, chairman of the Democratic House Caucus. Others on the committee are House Majority Leader Gene Davidson, D-Adams, and House Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis.
Graves said she plans to meet with each senator and see what their thoughts are on shaping their district.
''Her goal at the end of the day is to have the amendments (drawing district lines) filed the day we go back in session,'' Atchley said. ''Assuming it satisfies most people, we could expedite the passage of it.''
Atchley said there is some speculation about a special session, but he does not think one is necessary because the details will be worked out by the time lawmakers meet in regular session.
''There is some speculation if we would have a called session, it would include the tax issue as well as redistricting, but those two don't need to be mixed together,'' Atchley said.
Rinks said new computer software should simplify the drawing of districts to some degree.
''My understanding is the last time computer software was used it would take six or seven hours to download it,'' Rinks said. ''This software takes about two or three minutes.''
Republicans traditionally have challenged redistricting plans in court, but this time took the unusual step of filing suit before the new districts were drawn.
Haynes said he does not understand the Republicans' strategy in filing the lawsuit. ''I think it is premature,'' he said.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of five Republican leaders by John Ryder, a Memphis attorney and Republican National Committee member, contends even if the legislature acts swiftly upon its return in January, that does not leave challengers enough time to gauge support and raise campaign funds in the new districts.
The qualifying deadline for candidates is April 4.
The lawsuit maintains that lawmakers received detailed census information from the Census Bureau prior to April 1 of this year and could have drawn the districts during this year's legislative session.
The census puts Tennessee's population at 5,689,283, up 812,098 from 10 years ago.
That increases the ideal size of the state's nine congressional districts from 541,909 to 632,142, the state's 99 House districts from 49,264 to 57,467 and state Senate districts from 147,793 to 172,402.
Because of population shifts, the largest and smallest House districts as well as the smallest Senate districts are in Shelby County, the lawsuit maintains. The largest House district is in Germantown Republican Rep.Larry Scroggs' 94th district, which has a population of 85,005, while the smallest is in Memphis Democrat Rep. John DeBerry's 90th district with a population of 37,934.
The most overpopulated Senate district is that of Sen. Marsha Blackburn, D-Brentwood, at 222,903, while the most underpopulated district is that of Sen. John Ford, D-Memphis, at 110,653.
''The major problem, as I understand it, is Shelby County has six senators and has population for five,'' Atchley said. ''John Ford is way under. Blackburn is way over.''
That would mean that Memphis could lose a seat in the 33-member Senate, and Nashville and its suburbs should gain one.
Among the nine congressional districts, the most overpopulated is the 6th district of Democrat U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon of Murfreesboro, while the most underpopulated is the 9th district of U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis.
Because the current legislative and congressional district lines are based on 1990 population figures, ''the current districting plans grossly malapportion the voting population in Tennessee and are patently offensive to the principle of one person, one vote,'' the lawsuit maintains.
Because of the time it takes for a bill to wend its way through the legislative maze, it is likely no plan would be in place until late February, the lawsuit argued, and that would be less than 60 days from the filing deadline of April 4.
The court should set a deadline of Oct. 1 for all parties to submit redistricting plans to the court and the court should devise its own plan that would be effective Nov. 1, the lawsuit said.
Republican Hamilton County commissioners want a countywide redistricting plan approved by the start of September so the local Election Commission can have new voting precinct lines drawn by the end of the year.
"We will establish a goal of having the (district) lines drawn by the County Commission by September 1," said Commissioner Harold Coker, a member of the panel's redistricting committee.
The Election Commission has until the end of the year to redraw precinct lines. County Commissioner Fred Skillern said the Election Commission would have four months to approve a plan if the county has completed its work by Sept. 1.
During a two-hour meeting Thursday afternoon, the five Republican commissioners agreed on new lines for their districts. Four of the five Republicans are in districts with populations that are too big, so they must give up constituents, while the four Democrats are in districts that need more people. The four Democratic commissioners have not set a time to meet and draw lines for their districts.
The proposed new Republican districts would vary from the ideal population of 34,211 by a maximum of 2.7 percent over to about 1.3 percent under the ideal. The maximum allowable variation in district size is 10 percent, so if one district is 5 percent under ideal size no other district could be more than 5 percent over ideal.
Democratic and Republican commission members decided earlier this month to meet as separate groups so each party could draw districts agreeable to its members, Mr. Coker said.
"Each (party) will meet and draw its district lines, then we'll bring the plans together and see how they work," Mr. Coker said.
The Election Commission will draw voting precinct lines for the entire county after the County Commission has approved a new redistricting plan.
"The precinct boundaries cannot cross County Commission lines," said Wes Kliner, an Election Commission member.
"The Election Commission is not making an attempt to draw precinct lines until commission district lines are drawn," he said.
Precinct lines can be drawn quickly after County Commission districts have been defined, Mr. Kliner said. He added that a plan could be developed by the end of September.
Mr. Kliner said the location of County Commission district lines could have a small effect on state Senate and House districts, which will be drawn by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2002. He said the state legislative districts will use precinct lines drawn by the local Election Commission.
Each of the five proposed Republican districts drawn Thursday would have the same incumbent running for re-election. "We didn't want to district anybody out of a seat," said Mr. Coker. "We want to be fair with everyone."
Commissioner Bill Hullander was 16.6 percent over the ideal population, but after giving up Murray Hills and the area to its northeast to North Hickory Valley Road, he was just 2.7 percent over.
Commissioner Skillern was about 1.5 percent over ideal after giving part of south Red Bank to Commissioner Richard Casavant. Commissioner Casavant gave up Mowbray Mountain and the area from Dayton Boulevard to U.S. 27, which put his district about 1.3 percent under ideal.
Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Vandergriff was about 2 percent over ideal after taking all of Lakesite. Commissioner Harold Coker was about 2.1 percent under ideal after giving up the Hamilton Place area bordered by Lee Highway, Shallowford Road and Gunbarrel Road.
E-mail Michael Finn at [email protected]
Pulling and stretching political boundary lines like warm taffy on a computerized map, some Hamilton County commissioners got started Thursday drawing new commission districts.
One thing was immediately clear: Someone's going to get hurt.
"I think we've all got a feel for how complicated and difficult it's going to be,"
Commissioner Harold Coker told members of the county's redistricting committee in an information session.
"Some of us are going to have to give up some people we don't want to lose, and others are going to take in some they don't want."
The commission is supposed to redraw district lines by the end of the year to reflect population shifts measured in the 2000 Census. Cities such as Chattanooga and state and national legislative districts must be redrawn as well.
The county's problem, in a nutshell, is that a lot of suburban Republicans are going to be brought into Democratic districts centered in Chattanooga.
The result is that Democrats are worried about diluting their districts and Republicans hate the idea of losing constituents. There's also the problem of preserving at least two majority-black districts to comply with federal voting-rights laws.
"We're all going to have to compromise," said Commissioner Richard Casavant, who represents District 2.
The 2000 Census showed four city districts losing residents and four suburban/rural districts gaining. Commissioners must redraw the nine districts so they have an approximately equal population of 34,211 each.
The shrinking districts are William Cotton's 4th; JoAnne Favors' 5th; Ben Miller's 6th; and Curtis Adams' 8th.
The growth areas are in Fred Skillern's 1st; Dr. Casavant's 2nd; Mr. Coker's 7th; and Snowhill/Ooltewah/Collegedale in Bill Hullander's 9th.
Redistricting committee members and commission Chairman Charlotte Vandergriff met with members of the county's information technology services division for a look at the computer software that will help them map the new districts.
The plan now is to assemble the districts out of census blocks, the smallest population units defined by the census. If the county draws districts according to blocks, voting precinct lines may have to be redrawn as well. Commissioners had hoped to reconcile county and municipal voting precinct lines, but seemed resigned Thursday that the task was likely impossible.
Commissioners pulled and added blocks to districts on the computerized map in search of compact and contiguous districts. Some of the results, geographically viable, were politically impossible enough to draw laughs and grimaces from committee members.
One model showed Mr. Skillern losing territory in Red Bank and picking up Waldens Ridge south to Fairmount. Dr. Casavant flinched at the loss of land in his own stomping grounds.
Another put Lookout Mountain in Mr. Miller's district and Riverview in Mr. Cotton's district.
Ms. Favors is on the redistricting committee. She and Mr. Cotton, the two blacks on the commission, are watching for any plan that would reduce minority voting strength. Plans should center around the three shrinking downtown districts, Ms. Favors said.
"The three of us will be the most affected, so that should be the starting point," she said.
"It doesn't really matter what you have (referring to the majority white Republican commissioners) but it matters what we have."
Other committee members disagreed. In the end, the Democrats and Republicans agreed to draw their own proposed maps, then compare notes.
"Maybe we'll find some commonalities," Mr. Coker said.
E-mail Judy Walton at [email protected]
"I'm expecting they'll be pretty ruthless," said John Ryder, Republican National Committeeman for Tennessee. "They were ruthless the last time, and I don't expect there will be much difference this time."
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman William Farmer said Mr. Ryder's fears are unfounded.
"I'm sure the leadership of the House and Senate are going to come out with a fair redistricting plan," Mr. Farmer said. "I don't know if the Republicans will be pleased with it, but it will be fair."
Lawmakers are expected to redraw district lines after the session adjourns this summer. They will vote on the plan at the legislative session next year. A plan has to be in place before the April 2002 filing deadline for elections that November.
Because Democrats have enjoyed a majority in the state House and Senate almost exclusively since Reconstruction, they've virtually had a free hand every 10 years in drawing up state legislative districts. The plan is then passed by a majority vote of Democrats in the Tennessee General Assembly.
In 1992, when state Senate and House districts were last redrawn, the Senate lines were left largely intact, Mr. Ryder said. An alliance exists between Lt. Gov. John Wilder, D-Somerville, and most Senate Republicans, whose support he needs to maintain the Senate speaker's post, he said.
Democrats hold an 18-15 majority in the Senate.
Senate districts are protected by a 1982 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that requires lawmakers to provide a compelling reason to divide counties within a Senate district.
However, 12 Tennessee House districts held by Republicans in 1992 were redrawn and folded into six districts. One who lost his House seat was former Republican Rep. David Copeland of Chattanooga. His district was combined with that of fellow Hamilton County lawmaker Ken Myer in what is now the 30th House District, which is held by Rep. Jack Sharp, R-East Ridge.
"I know they can do it again if they want to," Rep. Sharp said. "The Democrats are the ones holding the pen. I'll just have to wait and see what they come up with."
Mr. Ryder said redrawing favorable district lines is how Democrats have maintained their majorities, particularly in the House, the last bastion of Democratic strength in the state, which has a 58-41 Democratic majority.
"There is no question in my mind that under a fair redistricting plan, Republicans would control a slight majority in the (state) House, just as they enjoy a slight majority in Congress," Mr. Ryder said, referring to the 5-4 GOP majority in Tennessee's U.S. House delegation.
In addition, U.S. Sens. Bill Frist and Fred Thompson and Gov. Don Sundquist are Republicans. Last November, Republican presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush of Texas beat Democratic challenger Al Gore by 80,229 votes in Tennessee, Mr. Gore's home state. Democrats have not won a statewide elective office since 1994, when Sara Kyle was elected to the Public Services Commission.
"This is a slightly Republican state. It's not an overwhelmingly Republican state but it's definitely not a Democratic state by any stretch of the imagination," Mr. Ryder said. "In a normal election, the state would be carried by Republicans, and the only way the Democrats can perpetuate their control is through gerrymandering their districts to give themselves an unfair advantage."
Mr. Farmer called Mr. Ryder's claims "paranoid."
He also took issue with the assertion that Tennessee is a "slightly Republican state." Mr. Farmer noted that Republicans failed to win any of the eight head-to-head races with Democratic opponents in the state Senate last November.
"The Republicans spent an obscene amount of money on those races, $5 million, to try to take the Tennessee Senate and they were 0-8. That sure doesn't sound like the state is Republican," he said.
E-mail John Commins at [email protected]