Redistricting Drives Comfortable Incumbents into Tough Races, Retirement

Several states that are redrawing their legislative districts for the 2022 elections and beyond have seen incumbent lawmakers announce their retirement as a result of new maps, while others that lost legislative seats are poised to pit two incumbents against each other for one district, and voters in some states may be placed in districts with residents across the state with vastly different political views.

Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper from Tennessee announced he would not seek reelection in 2022. The district, representing Democrat-leaning Nashville, which Cooper has held since 2003 is set to be split between three different districts in what Cooper called a "dismembering" of the city.

Cooper said he would have been unlikely to retain his seat considering part of Nashville would be included in his new district, along with portions of five other surrounding counties, according to The Associated Press.

42 members of Congress have said they will not seek reelection in 2022, made up of 13 Republicans and 29 Democrats following Cooper's Tuesday announcement, according to The Associated Press.

Congress Redistricting Gerrymandering House Senate Democrats Republicans
The U.S. Capitol is shown June 5, 2003 in Washington, D.C. Redistricting for Congressional and state legislative districts have led to retirements and conflict within state governments in recent months. Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images

In West Virginia, which lost a Congressional seat in the reapportionment following the 2020 Census, three House seats have become two in maps that were approved in October, according to Politico.

Shortly after the maps were approved by the state's legislature, the two Republican House Reps. whose districts were combined to make the new singular district both announced they will run for the seat.

David McKinley and Alex Mooney will face off in the Republican primary, and eventually one will run for the state's new 2nd District, which makes up the northern portion of West Virginia, Politico reported.

New congressional maps were debated for four hours in the Kansas House on Tuesday, and a vote is set Wednesday for the controversial maps, the AP reported. The new districts would group the northwest Kansas city of Lawrence, which houses the University of Kansas campus and was described as "woke" by Republican lawmakers, with the rest of the 1st District which spans most of the rural areas of the state to the north and west.

Republicans who drew the maps were accused by Democratic lawmakers of gerrymandering the state and attempting to drown out the political voice of Lawrence with the rural areas of the state where about 70 percent of voters chose former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, the AP reported.

A review of states drawing new maps this year by FiveThirtyEight found that states where one party had control of the redistricting process were more likely to lean the districts in their favor, while states that used a bipartisan commission were overwhelmingly more likely to create reasonably fair maps.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected new redistricting maps because they heavily favored Republicans, and a second draft of the maps was approved last week by a vote of 5-2 with similar objections from Democratic lawmakers, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Update (01/25, 10:46 PM): This story was updated with a new headline.