Tweaks to the lines on redrawn Democratic districts in the state House came down to something like a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.
House lawmakers approved the new maps 67-25-3 Thursday. Speaker Beth Harwell said she had politely encouraged Democrats to throw some votes her party’s way for the sake of bipartisanship appearances.
“I said to (Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner), ‘If we are making these concessions for some of your members, I would appreciate votes from your caucus,’” she said.
That left the #1 and #2 Democrats to figure out who would make Harwell feel appreciated.
“I’d like to think it was a little punitive, maybe, because the discussions were pretty hot and heavy,” Turner, of Old Hickory, said. … “I thought it was worth that to save a couple of our members.”
Turner threw down rock to Leader Craig Fitzhugh’s paper in their session to make sure the speaker got at least one leadership vote from their side. Turner was one of six Democrats who voted in favor of the Republican-drawn maps, while Fitzhugh toed the party line.
“Everybody we had that was paired, we tried to do so something about that,” said Turner, who had been one of the most vocal critics of GOP maps. “In areas where it didn’t impact their members, they decided to give us a couple of those back.”
In the final hours before the map was approved by the chamber, Republicans agreed to make these concessions to preserve incumbent advantage:
- Separate Democrats Sherry Jones and Mike Stewart, who had been drawn into the same south Nashville district.
- Return Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, to the district he represents now. He had been lumped into the same district as Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah.
- Adjust the lines in the district represented by Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville.
Democrats pitched a handful of other amendments to the maps on the House floor, mainly attempts to make more Shelby County districts represent a greater percentage of minorities. All those attempts failed.
The maps fell “way short on minority representation,” according to Turner, although he said he wanted to talk to the Tennessee Democratic Party, the General Assembly’s Black Caucus and other “interested parties” before deciding whether to challenge the lawsuit in court.
Harwell said the Democratic votes symbolize that the map has bipartisan support.
“Bottom line is, surely it sends a clear message that a majority of the members in this General Assembly is pleased with it, and I think the people of this state will be well represented by this map,” she said. “No one can doubt that we have drawn these lines fairly, that there’s proper representation from each district.”
In the new map, sitting House members who would have to run against other legislators (unless they relocated) are situated in:
- District 28 in Hamilton County: Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, and Joanne Favors, D-Chattanooga
- District 31 in Sequatchie, Bledsoe, Rhea and part of Roane counties: Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, and Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap
- District 86 in Shelby County: Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, and G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis
- District 98 in Shelby County: Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, and Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis
The Senate is expected to vote on its maps and OK the House drawings Friday. If approved by both chambers, the maps will go to the governor for his approval.