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Tenn. lawmakers mum on congressional redistricting

Erik Schelzig

Republicans appear in no hurry to reveal their plans for reshaping Tennessee's congressional districts.

The GOP proposals for new district lines in the state House and Senate were unveiled Wednesday, but leaders were unwilling to say when the new outlines of the state's nine congressional districts would be made public.

"I think we should have seen them by now," House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said after the House released its plans on Wednesday. "But we've not, and I'm not sure why."

McCormick said the holdup has been in the Senate, where at least two Republican members are also mulling running for Congress should the new lines favor a bid.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said both the House and Senate were putting their final touches on the maps and trying to ensure that everyone was in agreement. She would not specify whether there were any disputes left to hammer out.

"We just want to get everybody on board," she said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper attended a House committee meeting this week to urge lawmakers not to split up his Nashville district, one of only two seats in Tennessee's congressional delegation currently represented by Democrats.

"You have absolute power in this matter," he said.

Cooper argued for keeping the 5th District largely in its current form, other than to return areas to the south of the city that currently fall in Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn's district.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Cooper said. "And it's certainly less confusing for current voters if they just stay put in the 5th Congressional District."

Harwell said she will take Cooper's suggestions into consideration.

"I appreciate the fact that he wanted to restore Davidson County _ it was blatantly politically gerrymandered last cycle, where we took out the most Republican precincts and put them in Congressman Blackburn's district," she said. "I appreciate he made that effort and always appreciate his input."

Another seat that could see significantly redrawn boundaries is the sweeping 4th Distirct running through 24 counties from the Kentucky border over the Cumberland Plateau to the Alabama state line.

An obvious place to find the extra population would be among the fast-growing suburban counties outside Nashville, but some in the House have raised concerns about changing the rural makeup of the district

The incumbent is Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, who is relatively unkown in the Statehouse.

Republican state Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro is widely considered to be considering a bid for the seat if it is redrawn to include his area of Rutherford County. Other possible Republican candidates include Murfreesboro businesswoman Lou Ann Zelenik and Republican state Sen. Jim Tracey of Shelbyville.

All three have said they are waiting to see how the district lines are drawn before making a decision on whether to run.

The Associated Press