Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) announced Tuesday that he would not seek reelection, making him the 29th House Democrat to opt against contesting their seat this cycle.
The 67-year-old Cooper, who was first elected to Congress in 1982, cited redistricting as the major driver of his decision to retire.
“Despite my strength at the polls, I could not stop the General Assembly from dismembering Nashville,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Cooper added that he was announcing his decision “promptly so that others have more time to campaign” and promised to return donations for a reelection campaign that will not happen.
Cooper is the third longest-serving member in Congress and a member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition. He has repeatedly voted against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) retaining her leadership position, though he backed her for the top post in 2020.
The outgoing lawmaker described himself in his retirement statement as “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.”
Cooper has represented Tennessee’s 5th District, which includes all of Nashville, since 2003. However, the latest redistricting plan passed this week by state legislators divides Davidson County, where Nashville is located, into three separate districts. Democrats and liberal activists have complained the plan amounts to an unconstitutional gerrymander that dilutes the minority vote.
Republicans hailed Cooper’s retirement as the latest sign Democrats feel they have no chance of retaining the House majority after November’s elections.
“Democrats’ retirement crisis shows no signs of slowing down. No one wants to run on Democrats’ radical agenda of violent crime, open borders and skyrocketing prices,” NRCC Spokeswoman Camille Gallo said in a statement.
Of the 29 House Democrats who have said they will not run for reelection, 21 say they are retiring from public life, while four are running for the US Senate and four more are seeking other office. Thirteen House Republicans have also said they will not seek another two-year term.