Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2002, 12th term.

Born: June 19, 1954, Nashville, TN

Home: Nashville, TN

Education: U. of NC, B.A. 1975, Oxford U., B.A./M.A. 1977, Harvard U., J.D. 1980

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1980-82; Investment banker, 1995-99; Founder and partner, investment bank, 1999-2002.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Episcopalian

Family: Married (Martha Hays) , 3 children

Jim Cooper, a Democrat elected in 2002 who also served from 1982 to 1994, is a brainy moderate with a tart tongue—especially when it comes to his own party’s leadership. Despite the polarized political climate, he persistently seeks bipartisanship on fiscal matters.

His father, Prentice Cooper, was governor for six years. Jim Cooper, educated at the University of North Carolina, Oxford, and Harvard Law School, won the 4th District seat in 1982 by beating the bearer of another famous name, Republican Cissy Baker, the daughter of then-Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker. In his first stint in Congress, he spoke out against tobacco use and opposed the National Rifle Association in a state where both were popular. He participated actively in the “Group of Nine” Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee that produced a compromise between Michigan Democrat John Dingell, an ally of the auto industry, and California’s Henry Waxman, who was pro-environmental regulation, on the Clean Air Act of 1990. In 1994, Cooper ran against Republican Fred Thompson for the Senate seat that Democrat Al Gore vacated when he was elected vice president; Thompson won, 60%-39%.

Cooper then went to work as an investment banker in Nashville and as a teacher at Vanderbilt University’s business school. In 2002, when Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Clement jumped into a Senate race, Cooper joined a flurry of Democratic candidates for his seat. His toughest opponent was Davidson County Sheriff Gayle Ray, the first female sheriff in Tennessee, who had support from the national fundraising group EMILY’s List. Ray attacked Cooper’s voting record on women’s health issues. An abortion rights supporter, Cooper said that Ray’s charges were inaccurate and ran compelling and positive ads showing his children describing what he does well—banjo playing, helping with homework, getting health care for senior citizens—and what he doesn’t do well—cooking, playing basketball.

The AFL-CIO and The Tennessean endorsed Ray.Cooper had support from the Sierra Club environmental group and several smaller newspapers and raised twice as much money as Ray, including $700,000 of his own money. He won the primary with 47%. Ray got 23% in the seven-candidate field. Cooper won the general election easily and has faced no serious reelection challenges.

In recent years, Cooper has focused on being a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and a consensus-builder within the national Democratic Party. He was named the Blue Dogs’ co-chair for policy in 2013 and often describes himself as “the nerd” of the group. Two fellow Blue Dogs, Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, voted for him for minority leader in 2013; Cooper cast his own vote for former GOP Secretary of State Colin Powell. “We need a hero now more than ever,” he said later. Two years earlier, he supported fellow Blue Dog Heath Shuler of North Carolina over California’s Nancy Pelosi, whom he disdains for her strong-armed management style. He once said of his fellow Democrats under Pelosi, “We’re just told how to vote. We are treated like mushrooms most of the time.”

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, in a 2011 column titled “The Last Moderate,” praised Cooper as “the House’s conscience, a lonely voice for civility in this ugly era.” He has introduced numerous measures with GOP support. The House-passed bill to temporarily raise the federal debt limit in February 2013 included his provision to withhold lawmakers’ pay if a budget isn’t passed on time. He said finding Republicans to support him “is really not hard” but gets overlooked. “The press is only focused on the leaders,” he told National Journal. “They barely know the names of the backbenchers, and those are the people who can make things happen if they choose to.”

One way Cooper builds cooperation is by giving out his cell phone number to everyone. “Phone numbers are kind of a trust issue,” he said at a January 2013 town hall meeting. “If you trust people, then they will trust you back.” It also helps that Cooper eschews name-calling. When others in his party were savaging House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for his budget-cutting proposals in 2011, Cooper said he didn’t agree with all of Ryan’s proposals but defended him as “genuinely smart and nice and humble and caring.” Cooper earlier had joined another conservative Republican, Virginia’s Frank Wolf, in calling for a panel to examine entitlement spending—an idea that became reality with President Barack Obama’s creation of the Simpson-Bowles commission on the national debt in 2010. Cooper offered an amendment in March 2012 to have a budget resolution based on the commission’s recommendations; it drew just 38 votes.

During the health care debate, Cooper was among the Blue Dogs who worked with Waxman, the Energy and Commerce chairman, to moderate some provisions that conservative Democrats considered government overreach. He has been active in seeking to reform Congress, which he has accused of being “too lazy to prioritize.” He became the first lawmaker in October 2012 to sign a pledge by the activist group Rootstrikers promising not to lobby after leaving office. He has sought limits on spending earmarks—before the earmark moratorium, he had refused for years to seek such special-interest funding—and enforcement of pay-as-you-go rules that require tax cuts or spending increases to be offset elsewhere in the budget. Cooper also urged expanded powers for the president to veto specific items in the budget. A longtime proponent of increased government oversight, his bill to strengthen the independence of federal inspectors passed Congress and, despite a veto threat from President George W. Bush, became law in 2008.

Cooper was mentioned as a candidate to head the White House budget office, but he fell out of favor with the Obama administration after an incident during Congress’ work on the $787 billion economic stimulus bill in 2009. Cooper was one of 11 Democrats to vote against the initial version of the bill and told a Nashville radio station he had gotten “quiet encouragement” from the White House to oppose it because Obama disagreed with changes in the legislation made by the House Democratic leadership. The White House denied urging Cooper to vote against the leadership-backed bill.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4311

(202) 226-1035

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1536
Washington, DC 20515-4205

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4311

(202) 226-1035

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1536
Washington, DC 20515-4205

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-4311

(202) 226-1035

605 Church Street Suite 101
Nashville, TN 37219-2314

DISTRICT OFFICE

(615) 736-5295

(615) 736-7479

605 Church Street Suite 101
Nashville, TN 37219-2314

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(202) 225-4311

(202) 226-1035

PO Box 198497
Nashville, TN 37219

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 198497
Nashville, TN 37219

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Acquisitions

Jason Lumia
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Agriculture

Vic Goetz
Senior Legislative Assistant

vic.goetz@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4311

Appropriations

Jason Lumia
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Budget

Jason Lumia
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Disaster

Lisa Quigley
Chief of Staff

Education

Justin Tooley
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Vic Goetz
Senior Legislative Assistant

vic.goetz@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4311

Family

Christopher Carroll
Press Secretary

Finance

Jason Lumia
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Gun Issues

Christopher Carroll
Press Secretary

Housing

Justin Tooley
Legislative Assistant

Jason Lumia
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Intelligence

Gabe Surratt
Military Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Justin Tooley
Legislative Assistant

Labor

Justin Tooley
Legislative Assistant

Military

Donavan Laskey
Defense Legislative Fellow

Gabe Surratt
Military Legislative Assistant

Small Business

Jason Lumia
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Social Security

Jason Lumia
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Tax

Jason Lumia
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Technology

Justin Tooley
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Christopher Carroll
Press Secretary

Justin Tooley
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Jim Cooper
Votes: 95,635
Percent: 62.26%
Bob Ries
Votes: 54,939
Percent: 35.77%
2012 GENERAL
Jim Cooper
Votes: 171,621
Percent: 65.23%
Brad Staats
Votes: 86,240
Percent: 32.78%
2012 PRIMARY
Jim Cooper
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Jim Cooper
Votes: 99,162
Percent: 56.23%
David Hall
Votes: 74,204
Percent: 42.07%
2010 PRIMARY
Jim Cooper
Votes: 28,660
Percent: 89.32%
Eric Pearson
Votes: 2,214
Percent: 6.9%
2008 GENERAL
Jim Cooper
Votes: 181,467
Percent: 65.84%
Gerard Donovan
Votes: 85,471
Percent: 31.01%
2008 PRIMARY
Jim Cooper
Votes: 17,985
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (56%), 2008 (66%), 2006 (69%), 2004 (69%), 2002 (64%), 1992 (66%), 1990 (69%), 1988 (100%), 1986 (100%), 1984 (75%), 1982 (66%)

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