Shielding Incumbents More Important to GOP Than Purging Dems

Leading Tennessee Republican lawmakers say they plan to focus more on protecting their own than eliminating Democrats when redrawing legislative districts over the coming months.

“The whole paradigm has shifted from us trying to draw a fair map that we — by definition — would have gained seats [with] if we were just doing it fairly to all the incumbents now wanting to keep their seats,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. “It’s going to be difficult.”

Both the House and Senate have separately begun the tedious task of plotting where the new legislative district lines should go, a process called redistricting, which is done every 10 years after the U.S. Census.

High-ranking Senate Republicans Mark Norris of Collierville, Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro and Bo Watson of Hixon were expected to begin that process Thursday, according to Ramsey. House GOP leader Gerald McCormick and a team of Republicans kicked off that exercise in June.

Republicans now make up roughly two-thirds of the General Assembly. They carry a 20-13 majority in the Senate and a 64-34-1 lead in the House.

McCormick says the goal is to help Republicans “keep the number of seats we have rather than trying to draw Democrats out of their seats,” he told TNReport. “Certainly I want Republicans to do well but demographics of the state have changed.”

Republicans in neither the House nor the Senate have set a date for the next formal meeting where they’ll publicly air their ideas for new district lines.

So far, Democrats are being treated fairly, said Rep. Craig Fitzhugh.

“We don’t have a lot of authority on the matter,” said the House Democratic Leader from Ripley who said he understands where fresh Republican incumbents are coming from.

“I wouldn’t want my district to change, certainly if I just ran one time and won there,” he said.

Over the last few weeks, House Democrats and Republicans have traded information and preliminary drawings, according to Fitzhugh. “We’ll just have to see how it looks from a one person one, vote perspective.”

TNReport.com is an independent nonprofit news organization supported by donors like you.