Politics Today

Veteran reasonable Democrat Jim Cooper will retire after Tennessee GOP gerrymanders his Home seat

The youthful Cooper labored as an lawyer earlier than he sought elected workplace in 1982 campaigning for the sprawling 4th District, which included rural communities to the south and east of Nashville. He decisively won the primary earlier than beating Republican Cissy Baker, the daughter of Senate Majority Chief Howard Baker, 66-34 in a carefully watched race.

Cooper quickly established himself as something however a loyal vote for the Democratic management by opposing the Equal Rights Modification and supporting the Reagan administration’s MX missile project, however he additionally took some stances that might have harmed him in his rural seat. The congressman backed abortion rights, voted in favor of gun security measures, and loudly criticized the tobacco business in a area the place it held immense sway. Regardless of all of this, although, Cooper never had any trouble holding the 4th District.

Cooper sought a promotion in 1994 when he campaigned within the particular Senate election to succeed now-Vice President Al Gore (appointed Democratic Sen. Harlan Mathews didn’t run), however he confronted a troublesome race in a traditionally Democratic state that was transferring to the best. Cooper himself spent that cycle as probably the most distinguished opponents of President Invoice Clinton’s well being care reform plan, and he sponsored an alternative bill he nicknamed “Clinton Lite” that was very pleasant to the insurance coverage and well being care industries. (First girl Hillary Clinton, who was spearheading the reform push, attributed Cooper’s sabotage to his Senate hopes.) Neither plan ended up passing, however whereas Cooper’s antics made him radioactive within the Clinton White Home, it didn’t do him a lot good again in Tennessee.

The congressman confronted a troublesome battle in opposition to Republican Fred Thompson, and whereas an early ballot gave Cooper a 37-16 lead, his prospects plunged because the GOP gained power nationally. Thompson himself initially ran a chaotic marketing campaign and even talked about dropping out in May, however the actor proved to be a robust contender who, regardless of his lobbyist background, persuasively argued he had the anti-establishment credentials Cooper lacked. The Democrat responded to Thompson’s high-profile pink pickup truck experience throughout the state by labeling him a “Gucci-wearing, Lincoln-driving, Perrier-drinking, Gray Poupon–spreading millionaire Washington special-interest lobbyist,” however he simply couldn’t puncture Thompson’s folksy picture.

It additionally didn’t assist Cooper that nationwide Democrats have been extra dedicated to aiding Sen. Jim Sasser, who was in a troublesome common election battle of his personal in opposition to doctor Invoice Frist, than in serving to him within the particular. Cooper would later say that he knew two months earlier than Election Day that each he and Sasser would go down, and he was proper: Thompson beat him in a 61-39 landslide as Frist was additionally unseating Sasser by double digits, which made this the final time {that a} state’s whole Senate delegation modified fingers on the identical evening till final 12 months’s Democratic sweep in Georgia.

Cooper moved to Nashville afterwards and spent the next several years as an funding banker and teacher at Vanderbilt College, however Thompson’s 2002 retirement not directly gave him a chance to return to the Home. Democratic Rep. Bob Clement left the safely blue Nashville-based fifth District behind to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, and Cooper entered the first to succeed him.

Cooper rapidly emerged as a number one candidate within the crowded race although he hadn’t beforehand represented any of town, however he confronted severe opposition from state Rep. John Arriola and Davidson County Sheriff Gayle Ray. Ray, who had the assist of EMILY’s Record, ran ads arguing that Cooper’s 1994 well being care plan wouldn’t have offered important providers to girls, whereas the NRA backed Arriola over each Cooper and Ray. The previous congressman, nonetheless, enjoyed a huge financial edge over his rivals thanks partially to self-funding, and he ended up beating Arriola by a wide 47-24.

Whereas Cooper by no means once more gave his celebration as a lot hassle throughout his second stint in Congress as he did throughout the 1994 battle, he as soon as once more resumed his position as a thorn within the facet for his management. He often opposed Nancy Pelosi in speakership elections (although he backed her in 2021 for the first time in years), and he voted with the Trump administration nearly 40% of the time in 2017 and 2018.

Cooper, although, appeared fully secure at house, particularly after his brother, John Cooper, was overwhelmingly elected mayor of Nashville in 2019. So it was a shock when the congressman gained his major the subsequent 12 months by a surprisingly modest 57-40 in opposition to Keeda Haynes, a public defender who was operating an underfunded marketing campaign in opposition to him from the left, in what proved to be his final marketing campaign. Neighborhood activist Odessa Kelly launched a campaign to deny him renomination months later, however he in the end retired relatively than try to defend a seat that was now gerrymandered in opposition to him.

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