District shuffle: Crowe represents all of Washington, Unicoi counties

Gary B. Gray • Jan 5, 2012 at 5:58 AM

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, announced Wednesday the release of the state Senate’s first Republican-drawn redistricting map.

The map shows that state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, who regains all of Washington County, lost a little of Carter County to Ramsey and picked up all of Unicoi County. He remains in District 3.

Crowe was not immediately available for comment.

Ramsey’s territorial line pushed into Carter County southward from Sullivan County, and his district has changed from District 4 to District 2.

“We were committed to drawing a fair and legal state Senate map and that is exactly what we have done,” Ramsey said. “The map emphasizes regional integrity and adheres to state and federal laws as well as court precedent. I look forward to concluding the redistricting process swiftly and efficiently as soon as we go into session next week.”

Meanwhile, Republican plans for Tennessee legislative redistricting would draw five black House members into three seats and place the top Senate Democrat into the same district as a GOP incumbent. The plan was criticized by Democrats, but Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville stressed that the proposal would keep the same number of districts where minorities make up a majority of the population at 13 of the chamber’s 99 seats.

“We’ve gone out of our way to be as fair as possible,” Harwell told reporters after the plans were unveiled in a crowded committee hearing room. “I can’t control the demographics of this state.”

The once-a-decade redistricting plan reflects population changes in the 2010 Census and shifting political trends. Republicans hold wide majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. Republican leaders have said they want the redistricting measure to be among the first bills considered when the legislative session begins next week.

The Senate Republican plan released later in the day on the Legislature’s website would place Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2010, into the same district as Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown.

The House GOP plan would create six new districts with no current incumbent, including one in Nashville where African-Americans and Hispanics would combine to make up a majority.

The black Democrats placed into the same districts would be Reps. Joanne Favors and Tommie Brown in Chattanooga, and Barbara Cooper and G.A. Hardaway in Memphis. Also in Memphis, Rep. Antonio Parkinson, who is black, would be placed into the same district with Rep. Jeanne Richardson, who is white.

“Under their plan, the best-case scenario is we’re going to lose at least two African-American representatives in Tennessee in a year where African-American population has grown,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville.

According to the U.S. Census, Tennessee’s black population grew by nearly 127,000 between 2000 and 2010, increasing the African-American portion of the state’s population from 16.4 percent to 16.7 percent.

Harwell, the House speaker, disagreed with Turner’s argument.

“It may mean a change in who is representing that district,” Harwell told reporters after the plans were unveiled in a crowded committee room. “But there will still be the same number of minority districts in the state of Tennessee.”

The House plan would also draw into the same seat two white Democrats from Nashville, Reps. Eric Stewart and Sherry Jones. Also drawn into the same district were Reps. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, and Vance Dennis, R-Savannah; and Reps. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap, and Jim Cobb, R-Spring City.

Five new seats would be located within Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Rutherford and Williamson counties. A sixth would be made up of all of Marshall and parts of Lincoln, Franklin and Marion counties.

Ramsey said this year’s redistricting has been the most open, interactive and transparent redistricting process in Tennessee history by placing an unprecedented amount of information and data online for use by the public.

The plan was put together by the Senate’s Working Group on Redistricting with the assistance of the Office of Legal Services. In addition to Ramsey, the Senate Working Group on redistricting included three regional coordinators: Majority Leader Mark Norris, Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron and Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson.

The redistricting plan is available at the following website:


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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