Ohio Redistricting and Conventional Wisdom

So the census made official the speculation that Ohio was going to lose two congressional seats.  Within Ohio, the northern urban areas have lost population relative to the suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas.  With Republicans in charge throughout the state, we can expect the changes to be as friendly as possible to the thirteen GOP incumbents.

The following link is an Ohio map with 2006 population shift data.  2006 Ohio Population Shift

I think one obvious change will be with Dennis Kucinich and Betty Sutton.  Sutton’s 13th district runs at and angle from Akron then down northwest to Lorain County on Lake Erie.  Sutton’s home is actually closer to the Akron area, and the urban north of Lorain County looks a lot like the urban west of Cuyahoga County. I wouldn’t be surprised to see western Cuyahoga merge with Lorain County where Dennis Kucinich would likely face different struggles to retain his seat.  Sutton, in turn, would need to challenge the Akron seat which would be defended by freshman Jim Renacci.  This may not be a slam dunk for Renacci as Akron and Summit County lean Democratic.  The surrounding counties, however, are more conservative so it would depend on where the borders are drawn.

A trickier but viable alternative would be to push the Kucinich district to the south to include part of Akron, thereby forcing Sutton and Kucinich to run against each other in a primary.  Marcia Fudge would need to move beyond the eastern Cuyahoga comfort zone to include some of the more conservative areas in Cuyahoga or surrounding areas.  Also Lorain County would need to be included Marcy Kaptur’s Toledo district creating a long “Lake Erie” district, or Renacci’s 16th district may shift capture that area.  In either case, this would be a more obvious case of gerrymandering which I oppose on principle.

A more curious case of gerrymandering would be to split up Trumbull and Mahoning counties between the northern seat held by Steve LaTourette and the southern seat held by freshman Bill Johnson.  These counties are the base of Tim Ryan’s support, and splitting them would make the Youngstown area more competitive for the GOP.  The counties that border Pennsylvania have seen their population shrink, so each of these seats must expand to include greater population.  There may not be room for all three so Tim Ryan may be another Democrat forced into an incumbent vs. incumbent race.

A different factor, according to conventional wisdom, would be to carve up a Republican district if that member were to challenge Sherrod Brown for the Senate.  Steve LaTourette has served in the House since the Gingrich Revolution of 1994 and has held the sole GOP district in Northeast Ohio.  It may be his “turn” to upgrade his resume in Washington politics.  Jim Jordan has actually expressed interest in running for the Senate seat, and his district might be easier to carve that LaTourette’s.  The 4th district is between Columbus and Toledo and includes small cities like Lima, Mansfield, and Findley and has been a very reliable Republican seat. Being toward the middle of the state and surrounded by equally safe Republican seats, it would provide the redistricting committee a good deal of flexibility.

If Democrats had been in charge, I’m sure they would have created a safe unified Akron seat for Betty Sutton as well as a unified Columbus district which would have certainly been won by a Democrat.  Pat Tibiri of western Columbus has been one of the more vulnerable Republicans lately, so Republicans will certainly be looking here to solidify his election standing.

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