I've long believed that wankerish NoLabels-loving conservaDem Jim Cooper has deserved a primary challenge. It's not just his votes but his mouth: He's spent his whole career publicly undermining the Democratic Party, despite sitting in a safe district. (Tennessee's 5th Congressional District went for Obama by a 56-43 margin.) On Tuesday, though, it was his vote that mattered most: He was the only Democrat who said "nay" to $51 billion in vital federal relief funds for the areas ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.Cooper, of course, has been an apostate and an irritant for quite some time. Indeed, he's been this way for decades now.
Needless to say, this is an absolute outrage. How could Cooper do such a thing?
I cannot begin to speculate on Cooper's motives here, besides him simply being a deficit peacock. Part of me wonders if this all traces back to his humiliating 1994 Senate defeat (when he hosed Bill Clinton on health care to defend his right flank and raise campaign cash, and subsequently lost to Republican Fred Thompson by 21 points). One has to wonder if, in Cooper's mind, it's always 1994, and the key to electoral survival is parroting Republican talking points.
In the end, it doesn't matter. There were many Democrats serving much more conservative districts who voted the right way. Hell, there were over a half dozen Democrats running in districts that favored Mitt Romney who voted "yea," for crying out loud. With this vote, to say nothing of the others, Cooper has more than earned a legitimate challenge to the Democratic nomination in what is, at the end of the day, a blue seat in Congress.
Finding Democrats in the district is not a difficult task: The district gave Barack Obama double digit margins of victory over his GOP challengers in 2008 and 2012. What's more, a strong majority of the elected figures in Davidson County are Democrats.
So, here is just a smattering of electeds in the district. Readers, particularly our Volunteer State friends, are invited to peruse the list below the fold and tell us in the comments whether or not they would make decent prospects.
An important consideration: How indebted to Cooper are each of these would-be contenders to Cooper, politically speaking? For example, one of the most potentially attractive prospects in the district might be Davidson County Clerk Brenda Wynn, the first county-wide elected African-American officeholder in Davidson County. Alas, she got her political start as a staffer in Cooper's office, making a challenge of her former boss seem more remote.
Indeed, it is possible that a number of Nashville's officeholders are politically wed to Jim Cooper, who has been a fixture in area politics for decades. But, surely, given what we've seen from Cooper, someone of prominence might step forward into the breech and make sure that this Democratic seat is represented by an actual Democrat.
Now, allow us to play Great Mentioner and name several of the local officeholders who happen to be Democrats:
- State Rep. Darren Jernigan: Jernigan was just elected to the Tennessee state legislature, and one has to think he has some political chops. In a year when Democrats got their asses handed to them in the Tennessee Lege (ending up with less than 30 seats in the 99-seat House of Reps), Jernigan managed to displace a GOP incumbent in a very close election. His state house district lies to the east of Nashville. Jernigan, whether he'd be interested in primarying Jim Cooper, deserves watching for having a compelling biography and a sense of team. Check this out, for instance. In an article about Democrats running away from Obama in a state where he was about to get smooshed, Jernigan instead offered the following:
Jernigan, a Metro councilman who, like Mitchell, is campaigning in a district that includes suburban and rural neighborhoods, doesn’t hide his presidential leanings.If we learned nothing else this week, Cooper clearly feels than he is in line with the alternative.
“I’m the Democratic nominee, and, obviously, I will vote for the president,” Jernigan said. “The reason being: I don’t resonate with the top 2 percent of America.
“Me coming out and saying it, I don’t know if it does any damage to me or not,” he added. “But I don’t mind saying that I’m voting for the president because I don’t feel that I’m in line with the alternative.”
- State Rep. Jason Powell: Powell is another freshman state legislator who managed to win a narrow victory (54-46) in 2012. Powell is also mentioned in the above article as one of the Metro Democrats who openly stated he was voting for the president (it may not seem like much, but a number of candidates equivocated). Powell worked in various anti-drug and community organizations prior to his election in November. He represents the southern part of the county.
- State Rep. Mike Stewart: Stewart is in his third term in the legislature, and comes from a political family. His father was the communications director for the DNC. Stewart, an attorney by trade, represents a rather odd-shaped district that branches out along U.S. 41 to the southeast of Nashville.
- State Rep. Harold M. Love: Love is an interesting case. Love, a pastor at a Nashville-area AME church, dispatched a veteran Democratic incumbent in a primary last year, and went on to win his heavily-Democratic district by default, as no Republicans filed. Of the four state legislators listed to date, Love is the only African-American in the group. Nearly a quarter of the district's voters are African-American.
There are a handful of other state legislators, though the common thread for all of them is that they have spent quite a few years in the House. The sole exception is freshman Rep. Bo Mitchell, who reps western Davidson County. But Mitchell is one of the two candidates quoted in the Tennesseean article linked to above hedging on whether they'd vote for Obama, so you could argue that this would be an automatic disqualification.
And, with that, we turn it over to the best information resource we know—our community of readers. Are all four of these state legislators non-starters because of lifetime friendships with Jim Cooper? Are there incredible candidates at the city and county government levels that we missed? Is there a local activist who is itching for the fight and capable of pulling off the upset? Let us know in the comments!