James Hayes Shofner "Jim" Cooper (born July 19, 1954) is 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.
Early life, education, and law career
Cooper was born in Nashville and raised in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He is the son of former governor Prentice Cooper and his wife Hortense. Jim Cooper attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was a member of Alpha Sigma Chapter of the Chi Psi fraternity and a recipient of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship.
Upon graduation, he obtained a B.A. in history and economics. Cooper then went on to win the Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford earning a B.A./M.A. in politics and economics in 1977. In 1980, he received a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
After getting his law degree, he went to private law practice by being hired by Waller, Lansden, Dortch and Davis in Nashville for two years until running for congress in 1982.
U.S. House of Representatives (1982-1995)
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, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville and Huntsville, Alabama), so the 1982 race had much of the feel of a statewide race. Due to the district's demographics, many felt whoever won it 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 daughter of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker with 66 percent of the vote and 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.
Cooper has always been a staunch supporter National Rifle Association (NRA) and the movement to loosen federal gun laws and during his 1984 election campaign the NRA donated him nearly the legal limit of $10,000.
In 1992 he was co-author of a bipartisan health care reform plan, not including employer mandates to force universal coverage. This met strong opposition from Hillary Clinton.
In 1990, Cooper was one of the only three House Democrats that voted against the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. On several occasions, however, he found himself having to explain his votes to his somewhat conservative constituents.
During his first congressional tenure, he served on the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce
1994 U.S. Senate election
In 1994, Cooper ran for the United States Senate for the seat left open when Al Gore was elected Vice President, but was soundly defeated by Republican attorney and actor Fred Thompson, receiving just under 40 percent of the vote. It was a bad year overall for Democrats in Tennessee, as Republicans captured Tennessee's other Senate seat (in the person of Bill Frist) as well as the governorship (in the person of Don Sundquist).
The 4th also fell to the Republicans (in the person of Van Hilleary) as the party gained a majority of the state's congressional delegation for only the second time since Reconstruction.
Inter-congressional years (1995-2002)
Cooper then moved to Nashville and entered private business, also serving as a professor at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management.
U.S. House of Representatives (2002-Present)
Fifth District U.S. Congressman Bob Clement ran for Thompson's Senate seat in 2002 after Thompson opted not to run for a second full term, creating the first open-seat race in the 5th District since a 1987 special election. Cooper entered the Democratic primary along with several other prominent local Democrats. Republicans had long since given up on a district they hadn't won since 1874, and Republicans haven't made a serious bid for the 5th since 1972. It was generally understood that whoever won the Democratic primary was all but assured of victory in November. Cooper won the primary with 44 percent of the vote, all but assuring his return to Congress after an eight-year absence. Cooper defeated opponent Craig Schelske in the general election by an overwhelming margin.
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.
Cooper is a member of the Blue Dog 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 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 congresspersons were focused on careers after serving in the Congress, particularly as lobbyists, and this gave them a mindset of thinking about how to serve special interests rather than the public. According to Lessig, Cooper described Congress as a "Farm League for K Street".
In 2011, Rep. Cooper became a co-sponsor of Bill H.R.3261 otherwise known as the Stop Online Piracy Act.
- Committee on Armed Services
- Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces
- Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (Ranking Member)
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management
- Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending
- Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs
- Caucus memberships
- Congressional Arts Caucus
In 1985 Cooper married Martha Bryan Hays. They have three children. Cooper's daughter Mary is the sitting Student Body President at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cooper's son Hayes attends Groton School.
February 9th, 2012