|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Tennessee's 5th district
January 3, 2003
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Tennessee's 4th district
January 3, 1983 - January 3, 1995
James Hayes Shofner Cooper|
June 19, 1954
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (BA)|
Oriel College, Oxford (MA)
Harvard University (JD)
James Hayes Shofner Cooper (born June 19, 1954) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 5th congressional district (based in Nashville), serving since 2003. He is a member of the Democratic Party and the Blue Dog Coalition. He previously represented Tennessee's 4th congressional district from 1983 to 1995.
Cooper was born in Nashville and raised in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He is the son of former governor Prentice Cooper and his wife Hortense. His paternal grandfather, William Prentice Cooper, served as the mayor of Shelbyville and Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives. The Cooper family owns the River Side Farmhouse, built for his great-great-grandfather, Jacob Morton Shofner, in 1890, the Gov. Prentice Cooper House, built for his grandfather in 1904, as well as the 1866 Absalom Lowe Landis House in Normandy, Tennessee, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cooper attended the Episcopal boys' boarding school Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was a member of the Alpha Sigma Chapter of the Chi Psi fraternity, a recipient of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship, and earned a B.A. in history and economics. Cooper won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford, where he was a member of Oriel College and earned a B.A./M.A. in politics and economics in 1977. In 1980, he received a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
In 1982, Cooper won the Democratic primary for the 4th District, which had been created when Tennessee gained a district after the 1980 census. The new 4th ran diagonally across the state, from heavily Republican areas near Tri-Cities, Knoxville and Chattanooga to the fringes of the Nashville suburbs. The district stretched across five media markets--the Tri-Cities (Kingsport, Johnson City, and Bristol), Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville and Huntsville, Alabama--so the 1982 race had much of the feel of a statewide race. Owing to the district's demographics, many felt that whoever won the election would almost instantly become a statewide figure with a high potential for election to statewide office in the future. Cooper defeated Cissy Baker, an editor in Washington for the Cable News Network and the daughter of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker with 66 percent of the vote. He was reelected five more times with little substantive opposition, running unopposed in 1986 and 1988. This was somewhat surprising, given the district's volatile demographics. The district, then as now, was split between areas with strong Democratic and Republican voting histories. Indeed, prior to Cooper's election, much of the eastern portion of the 4th hadn't been represented by a Democrat since the Civil War. However, the size of the district makes it extremely difficult to unseat an incumbent.
In 1992 Cooper was co-author of a bipartisan health-care reform plan, that did not include employer mandates compelling universal coverage. This initiative met with strong opposition from Hillary Clinton.
In 2009 the Wall Street Journal wrote about Cooper's concerns about the national deficit. "It's even worse than most people think, he says, because of dodgy accounting used by the federal government. ... 'The U.S. government uses cash accounting,' he says. 'That is illegal for any enterprise of any size in America except for the U.S. government.'" He made similar remarks on PBS, saying that 'The real deficit in America is at least twice as large as any politician will tell you. And it may be ten times larger.'"
During his first period in Congress, he served on the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
In 1994, Cooper ran for the Senate seat vacated by Al Gore's election to the Vice Presidency, but was soundly defeated by Republican attorney and actor Fred Thompson. Cooper received just under 40 percent of the vote. It was a bad year overall for Democrats in Tennessee, as Republican Bill Frist captured Tennessee's other Senate seat and Don Sundquist was elected governor. The 4th district seat was also won by a Republican, Van Hilleary, as the GOP gained a majority of the state's congressional delegation for only the second time since Reconstruction.
When Thompson opted not to run for a second full Senate term in 2002, 5th District Congressman Bob Clement (with whom Cooper had served from 1988 to 1995) ran for Thompson's seat. Cooper entered the Democratic primary along with several other Democrats. Two of whom were Davidson County Sheriff Gayle Ray the first female sheriff in Tennessee and state legislator John Arriola. Cooper won the primary with 47 percent of the vote and went on to win the general election easily.
Cooper was re-elected in 2004 against a Republican who disavowed his party's national ticket.
In the 2006 election, Cooper faced Tom Kovach, the state public relations coordinator for the Constitution Party, who ran as a Republican since the Constitution Party did not have ballot access in Tennessee at the time. No one opposed Kovach for the Republican nomination. Cooper defeated Kovach by 41 points.
On Election Day 2008, Cooper defeated Republican John Gerard Donovan, 68-31%.
Cooper defeated Republican David Hall, 57-42%.
The 2010 midterm elections saw Republicans gain complete control of state government for the first time since Reconstruction. This led to speculation that the legislature might try to draw the 5th out from under Cooper. Indeed, in the summer of 2011 Cooper and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean told The Tennessean that they'd heard rumors about heavily Democratic Nashville being split between three Republican districts. Despite its large size, Nashville has been located entirely or mostly in a single district since Reconstruction. Cooper said he'd gotten his hands on a map that would have placed his home in Nashville into the heavily Republican 6th District. The 5th would have been reconfigured into a strongly Republican district stretching from Murfreesboro to the Alabama border, while the rest of Nashville would have been placed in the heavily Republican 7th District. Had it been implemented, the map would have left Cooper with only two realistic places to run--an incumbent-versus-incumbent challenge in the 6th against freshman Republican Diane Black, or the reconfigured 5th, which had reportedly been drawn for State Senator and Murfreesboro resident Bill Ketron, chairman of the redistricting committee. However, the final map was far less ambitious, and actually made the 5th slightly more Democratic than its predecessor. Notably, Cooper picked up all of Nashville.
Cooper defeated B. Staats, 65-33%.
Cooper is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democrat Coalition and generally has a moderate voting record. Cooper is the only Tennessean on the Armed Services Committee. He also serves on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Despite the different policy affiliation, he became one of Barack Obama's earliest Congressional endorsers. Cooper opposed an $819 billion economic stimulus plan that passed the House in 2009, but ended up voting for the revised $787 billion final package. He is one of only a few Blue Dog members that don't seek earmarks. Cooper voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010. In 2009 the ThinkProgress website reported that a Daily Kos poll "found that 60 percent of his constituents disapprove of his handling of the health care issue."
The 5th district comprises three counties with Davidson County having culturally liberal white-collar workers in the music and publishing industries and the large number of colleges in the area. However, the 5th is only a marginally Democratic district on paper at D+5, more than two-thirds of its vote is cast in Nashville/Davidson County, which has double the population of the rest of the district combined. However, Cooper has seldom if ever faced any significant challenge to his ideological left, or even threats thereof, given the historical strength of the Davidson County organization. A more recent reason for Cooper's clout among voters, though, is the control of the state legislature by Republicans, who might divide the district in the future, or merely threaten to do so, to thwart any possibility of a nationally aligned liberal taking the seat (see above). Those fears work strongly in Cooper's favor, in addition to his nearly lifelong connections with establishment figures in Tennessee, and will probably continue to do so in the near future.
In July 2011, Cooper was one of five Democrats to vote for the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act.
Cooper spoke with Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig about the subject of reforming Congress. According to Lessig, Cooper explained that members of Congress were so preoccupied with the question of what they would do after leaving Congress - the most obvious career path being lobbying - that they fell into the habit of thinking about how to serve special interests rather than how to serve the public. According to Lessig, Cooper described Congress as a "Farm League for K Street".
In 2011, Cooper said: "Working in this Congress is deeply frustrating; in fact, it's enraging. My colleagues are misbehaving. They're posturing for voters back home. They're taking the cheap political hit instead of studying the problem that's before us." In the same year, Cooper "called the partisan posturing over the debt ceiling 'an extremely dangerous game of chicken,' and said he'd 'never seen politicians act more irresponsibly than they have been recently,' over the nation's debt."
Cooper was ranked as the 20th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 114th United States Congress (and the most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee) in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy that ranks members of the United States Congress by their degree of bipartisanship (by measuring the frequency each member's bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party and each member's co-sponsorship of bills by members of the opposite party).
In 1985 Cooper married Martha Bryan Hayes. They have three children. Cooper's daughter Mary was the Student Body President at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cooper's son Hayes attends The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his son Jamie graduated from The University of Georgia.
Part of the economy of influence that corrupts our government today is that Capitol Hill has become, as Representative Jim Cooper put it, a "farm league for K Street."
(see 30:13 minutes into the video)
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 4th congressional district
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 5th congressional district
| Baby of the House
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Tennessee
| Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition for Policy
Served alongside: Jim Matheson (Administration), Dennis Cardoza (Communications)
| Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition for Policy
Served alongside: John Barrow, Kurt Schrader (Administration), Kurt Schrader, Jim Costa (Communications)
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority
|98th||Senate: H. Baker Jr. o J. Sasser||House: J. Quillen o J. Duncan Sr. o E. Jones o H. Ford Sr. o M. Lloyd o A. Gore Jr. o B. Boner o J. Cooper o D. Sundquist|
|99th||Senate: J. Sasser o A. Gore Jr.||House: J. Quillen o J. Duncan Sr. o E. Jones o H. Ford Sr. o M. Lloyd o B. Boner o J. Cooper o D. Sundquist o B. Gordon|
|100th||Senate: J. Sasser o A. Gore Jr.||House: J. Quillen o J. Duncan Sr. (until Jun. 1988) o E. Jones o H. Ford Sr. o M. Lloyd o B. Boner (until Oct. 1987) o J. Cooper o D. Sundquist o B. Gordon o B. Clement (from Jan. 1988) o J. Duncan Jr. (from Nov. 1988)|
|101st||Senate: J. Sasser o A. Gore Jr.||House: J. Quillen o H. Ford Sr. o M. Lloyd o J. Cooper o D. Sundquist o B. Gordon o B. Clement o J. Duncan Jr. o J. Tanner|
|102nd||Senate: J. Sasser o A. Gore Jr.||House: J. Quillen o H. Ford Sr. o M. Lloyd o J. Cooper o D. Sundquist o B. Gordon o B. Clement o J. Duncan Jr. o J. Tanner|
|103rd||Senate: J. Sasser o H. Mathews||House: J. Quillen o H. Ford Sr. o M. Lloyd o J. Cooper o D. Sundquist o B. Gordon o B. Clement o J. Duncan Jr. o J. Tanner
|108th||Senate: B. Frist o L. Alexander||House: B. Gordon o J. Duncan Jr. o J. Tanner o Z. Wamp o H. Ford Jr. o W. Jenkins o J. Cooper o M. Blackburn o L. Davis|
|109th||Senate: B. Frist o L. Alexander||House: B. Gordon o J. Duncan Jr. o J. Tanner o Z. Wamp o H. Ford Jr. o W. Jenkins o J. Cooper o M. Blackburn o L. Davis|
|110th||Senate: L. Alexander o B. Corker||House: B. Gordon o J. Duncan Jr. o J. Tanner o Z. Wamp o J. Cooper o M. Blackburn o L. Davis o S. Cohen o D. Davis|
|111th||Senate: L. Alexander o B. Corker||House: B. Gordon o J. Duncan Jr. o J. Tanner o Z. Wamp o J. Cooper o M. Blackburn o L. Davis o S. Cohen o P. Roe|
|112th||Senate: L. Alexander o B. Corker||House: J. Duncan Jr. o J. Cooper o M. Blackburn o S. Cohen o P. Roe o D. Black o S. DesJarlais o S. Fincher o C. Fleischmann|
|113th||Senate: L. Alexander o B. Corker||House: J. Duncan Jr. o J. Cooper o M. Blackburn o S. Cohen o P. Roe o D. Black o S. DesJarlais o S. Fincher o C. Fleischmann|
|114th||Senate: L. Alexander o B. Corker||House: J. Duncan Jr. o J. Cooper o M. Blackburn o S. Cohen o P. Roe o D. Black o S. DesJarlais o S. Fincher o C. Fleischmann|
|115th||Senate: L. Alexander o B. Corker||House: J. Duncan Jr. o J. Cooper o M. Blackburn o S. Cohen o P. Roe o D. Black o S. DesJarlais o C. Fleischmann o D. Kustoff|