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Ramsey: Axing Roberts ‘Toughest Thing I’ve Ever Done’

Michael Cass has a story on Sen. Kerry Roberts being redistricted out of a run for re-elecction by his fellow Republican senators – starting with the observation that Gov. Bill Haslam hosted a fundraiser for Roberts just a day before the redistricting plan was announced.
The redistricting plan, unveiled less than 24 hours after the fundraiser, left some people wondering where Roberts had gone astray and whose bad side he had wound up on. But Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, speaker of the Senate, insisted Friday that it was legal necessity, not political grudges, that spawned the proposal.
“I am catching a lot of heat over this,” Ramsey said in a phone interview. “But there comes a time when you have to say that all you can do is what’s legal. This is the best we can do.”
“I want to stress that Kerry Roberts is my friend,” added Ramsey, who, with House Speaker Beth Harwell, co-hosted another fundraiser for Roberts in Gallatin on Dec. 12.
Roberts, a certified public accountant and bicycle enthusiast who owns The Bike Pedlar, did not respond to a phone message and two emails seeking comment Friday. He was elected less than a year ago in a special election to fill the vacancy created by former Sen. Diane Black’s move to Congress.
…Ramsey said population shifts and a constitutional requirement to avoid splitting counties between legislative districts forced a move to bring Robertson County, where Roberts lives, into a newly drawn District 25 with Dickson County — which is (Sen. Jim) Summerville’s home — as well as Cheatham, Humphreys, Perry and Lewis counties.
…Ramsey said Senate Democrats split some counties between districts in the last redistricting process 10 years ago, but they were never challenged on it.
However, the state attorney general’s office told Ramsey and the rest of the Senate redistricting team a few days before Christmas that splitting Robertson County into two districts would have left them vulnerable to a legal challenge. So team members went “back to the drawing table” and “lived on a conference call” between Christmas and New Year’s Day so they could find a solution.
Unfortunately, Ramsey said, that solution put Roberts in the electoral wilderness.
“I don’t see another option,” Ramsey said. “This is no doubt the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my 20-year legislative career.”
Ramsey said he had been exploring another potential option for Roberts. Under that scenario, if Roberts moved to Sumner County and could get a waiver of the constitutional requirement that candidates live in a district at least a year before the election, he could run in District 18 again this fall.
Ramsey said the idea was worth a shot since Roberts didn’t have a chance to live in Sumner County a year before the November election. He said he had talked to Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper about the matter twice already.
“It’s hard to get a waiver on the (state) constitution,” the lieutenant governor said Friday afternoon. “But we’re checking into it to see if it can be considered an extenuating circumstance.”
But he said later in the day that Roberts’ chances of making the move and withstanding a legal challenge were slim.