Tennessee's 4th congressional district

Infobox U.S. congressional district
state = Tennessee
district number = 4



image width = 350
image caption =
representative = Lincoln Davis
party = Democratic
english area =
metric area =
percent urban =
percent rural =
population = 632,143
population year = 2000
median income = 31,645
percent white = 93.3
percent black = 4.4
percent asian = 0.3
percent native american = 0.3
percent hispanic = 1.6
percent other race = 0.1
percent blue collar =
percent white collar =
percent gray collar =
cpvi = R+3
The 4th Congressional District of Tennessee is a congressional district in Middle and East Tennessee. It is the state's largest district in terms of area, and one of the largest east of the Mississippi River, because of low population density and rural character. It currently includes all of Bledsoe, Campbell, Coffee, Cumberland, Fentress, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Marion, Maury, Moore, Morgan, Pickett, Scott, Sequatchie, Van Buren, Warren, and White Counties, as well as portions of Hickman, Roane, and Williamson counties.

The district's current configuration dates from 1983, when Tennessee gained a district in the 1980 Census. At that time, portions of the old 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th districts were combined to form a new 4th District.

As currently drawn, the 4th is one of the relatively few seats in the nation that cannot be considered safe for either party. This is because it stretches across portions of traditionally heavily Republican East Tennessee and traditionally Democratic Middle Tennessee. The district's eastern counties are strongly Republican, except for pockets in the northeast where union membership among coal miners keeps Democrats competitive. In fact, prior to the 4th's creation, much of the district's eastern portion had not been represented by a Democrat since the Civil War. The district's western counties, however, are historically Democratic, in keeping with the preferences associated with Middle Tennessee's history.

Despite the district's seemingly volatile politics on paper, it tends to give incumbents long tenures in Washington; it has elected only three congressmen since its creation. The 4th stretches across two time zones, five of the state's eight television markets (the Tri-Cities, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville and Huntsville, Alabama) and five of the state's nine radio markets (the above-mentioned cities, plus Cookeville). This gives congressional races much of the feel of statewide races; candidates' advertising budgets sometimes rival those for governor and U.S. Senate (although candidates usually conduct a significant part of their advertising in far less expensive media such as small-town newspapers, local radio and cable television). Open-seat races in this district are usually among the most-watched in the country. However, the district's large size and lack of unifying influences make it very difficult to unseat an incumbent. The New Deal heritage of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the subsequent priority of ensuring continued funding for it and other public works projects, generally inclines voters toward keeping incumbents in office as well.

The communities in the 4th are largely dependent upon light industry economically, although significant farming interests are still visible to this day; however, most of the coal mines have long since been abandoned, with those areas now suffering from the state's highest poverty and unemployment rates. The district's population is largely aging (although its families generally have more children than the national average), with relatively few new residents moving to the area; thus its geographic size may well continue to enlarge even further over the next several decades, or at least fluctuate.

The absence of social change brought on by large-scale suburbanization in most of the territory (except for Williamson County and portions of Maury County) has left the district's political elites--Democrats in the western portion, Republicans in the eastern portion--generally unchallenged. However, even moderately liberal politics are a hard sell even in the district's strongly Democratic areas. Most of the 4th's residents are strongly conservative on social issues, and very religious (predominantly members of Baptist and Pentecostal churches and Churches of Christ); Republican presidential candidates have carried the district in all but two elections since the district was created. The two exceptions were 1992 and 1996, in which the district warmly supported Bill Clinton. This was largely due to the presence of Al Gore (who represented a large portion of the district's western section from 1977 to 1983) as the Democratic candidate for vice president. Gore just barely missed carrying the district in 2000, which may have cost him his home state--and the election.

Any number of factors, such as the popularity of the Iraqi War (the district, like rural areas generally, sends a higher percentage of its youth into the military than the U.S. at large), gun control initiatives, issues of religion in public life, and tobacco policies (long a vital cash crop in many counties) may well shift voter allegiances away from time-honored patterns set in the days following the Civil War.

Democrat Lincoln Davis of Pall Mall (in the coal mining region) has represented the district since 2003.

Recent elections

Representatives

* Died in office ** Assumed office by special election

Source: [http://politicalgraveyard.com/geo/TN/ofc/usrep.html Political Graveyard database of Tennessee congressmen]

External links

Congress.com: [http://www.congress.com/state/tn.html Tennessee Congressional districts]
* [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd?state=TN&district=4 "Google" map of Tennessee's 4th district at "GovTrack.us"]
* [http://nationalatlas.gov/printable/congress.html#list National Atlas maps of all congressional districts]
* [http://fastfacts.census.gov/home/cws/main.html U.S. Census data searchable by congressional district]
* [http://www.opensecrets.org/races/summary.asp?cycle=2006&id=TN04 Opensecrets.org Fundraising data from FEC reports]
* [http://election.cbsnews.com/campaign2006/county.shtml?state=TN&race=H&jurisdiction=4 2006 results by county from CBSNews.com]


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