In its 2011 redistricting, Ohio may lose two congressional seats, potentially more than any other state in the country. This Rose Report series will analyze the upcoming 2010 election in each of the current districts and what Ohio’s congressional districts are likely to look like after 2012. Congressional redistricting in Ohio is done by the state legislature, with a signature required from the governor for passage. The 33-member Senate currently consists of 21 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Eight Republicans and nine Democrats face re-election votes this November, and. Republicans are considered certain to hold onto control of the Ohio Senate. The House has 99 members with 53 Democrats to 46 Republicans, and all 99 seats are up for re-election in 2010. Republicans would need to pick up four seats to take a majority in the House, and Republicans this year have a solid chance at picking up at least that many seats.
Democratic Governor Ted Strickland is running for re-election and recent polls have him slightly trailing Republican challenger former Congressman John Kasich, the former US House Budget Chairman. Kasich’s lead grew from a virtual tie in early August to a current average lead of 7.0 points according to Real Clear Politics. Both the Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association (operating under the name “Building a Stronger Ohio”) are spending millions on the race. Ohio also has a very competitive and expensive race for United States Senate as Republican incumbent George Voinovich is retiring. Democratic Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher is running against former Republican Congressman and U.S. Trade Representative (under George W. Bush) Rob Portman. This race is also very expensive with the candidates, both parties, and outside groups (including Karl Rove’s American Crossroads organization) spending millions. The most recent polls have Portman leading ten points or more, with the Real Clear Politics average at Portman +18.5%.
Ohio currently has eighteen seats in the House of Representatives. The delegation is split between ten Democrats and eight Republicans. The Democratic seats are concentrated in Eastern Ohio, primarily in the hill country and industrial Appalachia in the south and Toledo, Cleveland, Akron and Canton in the north. Democrats also hold districts in two of the metropolitan areas of the state, including Cincinnati and Columbus. Republicans dominate the western half of the state, including the northwestern industrial and manufacturing counties and more urban districts just outside Columbus and Cincinnati. The Republicans also hold the 14th district in the north-east corner of the state. The Democratic districts have seen less population growth since 2000 than the Republican ones and as a result tend to be more under-populated going into the 2011 redistricting. After the 2000 census, Ohio lost one congressional seat. Republicans were forced to compromise with Democrats to pass a redistricting plan because they finished the new map so close to filing deadline of February 21, 2002. They managed to keep all eleven Republican seats largely the same and also preserved two Cleveland area Democrats. Every other Democrat, however, received a significantly revised district. Tom Sawyer’s 14th district was split apart entirely, with much of its population going to the 13th. Sawyer’s home, however, was put into the 17th, which was then held by Democrat Jim Traficant. Traficant was then facing bribery charges (he has since been convicted and served time in prison). Both Traficant and Sawyer lost the Democratic primary to former Traficant aide Tim Ryan. The 3rd district was also made much more conservative in 2001, but then-incumbent Tony Hall was considered strong enough to continue winning his seat. In 2002, however, Hall retired and a Republican won the 3rd, giving the GOP a 12-6 advantage. By 2008, however, Democrats had gained a 10-8 majority after winning several swing districts in the Democratic wave elections of 2006 and 2008. The most recent population estimates released by the American Community Survey (ACS) place Ohio’s population at 11,542,645 as of 2009. While Ohio currently has eighteen congressional seats, most current estimates are that it will lose one or two seats. The following analysis assumes Ohio loses two seats, retaining a total of sixteen. This means that the ideal population level for each district will be 721,415. This is larger than the current population of every district in the state but one.
Each of the five seats currently with the smallest population are held by Democrats who will likely win their elections in 2010. This means that regardless of who controls redistricting, these Democratic seats are going to see a lot of change. On the other end of the spectrum, four of the five seats with the largest population are held by Republicans and the fifth is the 15th district, which Republicans have a good chance of winning in 2010. These seats will still need residents to be added to meet the ideal population level but in far smaller amounts than the Democratic ones. Which seats specifically are eliminated, combined and/or significantly changed is dependent on who holds control of the state legislature and the Governor’s office and thereby the redistricting process. Currently, it seems likely that a bi-partisan redistricting or a Republican redistricting will occur. In a bi-partisan process, one district will likely be eliminated on each side of the political spectrum. In the case of a Republican controlled redistricting, both eliminated districts are likely to be Democratic. Which specific districts are most at risk will be analyzed in greater detail over the rest of this series. Over the next week, this series will analyze each district’s geography, demographics, 2010 election outlook, and 2012 redistricting possibilities.
Ohio’s 1st congressional district includes almost all of Cincinnati and also stretches north along the western border of the state into Butler County. Cincinnati’s population fell in the 1990s but has since made a small recovery. Over time Cincinnati grew more liberal while its suburbs, which are now more populous than the city itself, became more conservative.
Currently, the Cook Partisan Voting Index of the 1st district is D+1. George W. Bush won the district in both 2000 and 2004 while Barack Obama won it in 2008 with 55%. The incumbent is Democrat Steve Driehaus, who in 2008 beat seven-term Republican Steve Chabot by four points after the two combined to spend almost $4 million on the campaign (the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee both spent considerable amounts as well). Driehaus calls himself a “raging moderate.” He is pro life and describes himself as fiscally conservative, though he voted for the President’s healthcare package. Chabot is running against Driehaus again in a rematch of the 2008 race. Chabot has led polling throughout the race: a SurveyUSA/Firedoglake poll from January had Driehaus losing the rematch by 17 percent, but a poll from August has Chabot up only 2%. A more recent SurveyUSA poll from late September had Chabot up by 12%. Driehaus has raised over $1.7 million while Chabot is nearing the $1.7 million mark. Chabot has over $100,000 more cash on hand. The DCCC, however, recently pulled its advertising money out of the race, leaving Driehaus weaker and Chabot in a strong position to take back his seat for the Republicans. The 1st district has a population of 627,963, having lost 0.4% of its population since the 2000 census. It is currently 93,452 people below the ideal population level (all population deviation figures in this series assume Ohio loses two districts in the 2010 reapportionment). As the major Cincinnati district the 8th is unlikely to disappear in redistricting, particularly if Chabot manages to win it back and if Republicans are in control of redistricting (see the introduction to this series for more on who may be in control). The extra population needed to reach the required population balance is likely to be pulled in from surrounding districts like the 2nd and the 8th. If possible, Republicans will try to make this district safer for themselves by taking conservative voters from those more solidly conservative districts.
The 2nd congressional district is located directly to the east of the 1st and includes the Cincinnati suburbs of east Hamilton County, Warren County and Clermont County. Farther east, the district includes Brown, Adams, and Pike counties together with part of Scioto County. The 2nd is very conservative, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+13. In 2008, McCain won 59% of its vote in the 2008 Presidential election. The incumbent is Republican Jean Schmidt, first elected in an August 2005 special election following the retirement of Representative Rob Portman. Schmidt has had tough races since then, never winning with more than 52% of the vote. Democrat Surya Yalamanchili, a former contestant on the Donald Trump’s television reality show The Apprentice, is challenging her in 2010. Schmidt has outraised him so far, $950,000 to his $215,000. Yalamanchili overcame a significant fundraising disadvantage to win the primary, however, and should not be counted out. At this point, however, it seems likely that Schmidt will hold onto the 2nd district in 2010. In a Republican controlled redistricting, Schmidt’s seat should be safe again. With a 2009 population of 687,239, the 2nd is one of the least-underpopulated districts in the state and only needs to add about 34,000 residents to reach the ideal level. If the redistricting process is bi-partisan, however, the seat might be in a little more danger, simply due to Schmidt’s history of too-close elections. Due to the 2nd’s strong population and generally solid conservatism, however, it is not a likely sacrifice and will probably be expanded to the east and north, with Republicans trying to include as many conservative voters (and possibly a strong primary challenger) as they can.
Ohio’s 3rd congressional district is just north of the 2nd and includes the city of Dayton in Montgomery County, birthplace of the Wright brothers. It encompasses all of rural Clinton and Highland counties and parts of Montgomery and suburban Warren. The district leans conservative, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R +5, and gave John McCain 51% of the vote in 2008. The incumbent in the 3rd is Republican Mike Turner, first elected in 2002 with 59% of the vote. A native of Dayton, Turner has won his three re-election campaigns handily. In 2010, Turner looks in good shape to continue to hold onto his seat. He has raised almost $700,000. Democratic challenger Mark MacNealy recently dropped out of the race, leaving his party to hold a special primary. MacNealy’s campaign manager John Michael Roberts won that primary and has since raised very little money. The 3rd district has a population of 637,711, making it one of the more underpopulated Republican districts at 11.6% below the ideal. Turner’s seat seems fairly safe, however, regardless of who controls redistricting, given his strong campaigns and eight years of seniority.
Ohio’s 5th congressional district is in the northwestern corner of the state and comprises a relatively rural region. The largest metropolitan area is Bowling Green with a population of about 30,000. It is the second largest district in the state geographically and also includes most of the suburbs of Toledo. The 5th is fairly conservative with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+9. The 5th’s incumbent is Republican Bob Latta who assumed office after winning a December 2007 special election following the death of Representative Paul Gillmor. Latta looks likely to hold on to the seat, having raised almost $500,000 so far. His Democratic challenger, Caleb Finkenbiner, has not reported any fundraising. With its population of 625,410, Ohio’s 5th is 13.3% below the ideal population and needs to add an additional 96,000 residents. The 5th is a possible target of elimination if there is bi-partisan control of redistricting. By combining parts of the 5th with the neighboring (and also underpopulated) 4th while putting other parts of the 5th into Boehner’s 8th, Republicans could shore up those two districts, freeing up some of the more south-eastern residents of those districts for more competitive neighbors. If Republicans control redistricting, they are expected to protect Representative Latta’s district.
Ohio’s 8th district is on the far western side of the state and includes all of Miami, Darke and Preble counties and parts of Mercer, Montgomery and Butler. The economy in this part of Ohio is largely based on manufacturing and was hit hard by the recent recession. The district is extremely conservative with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+14; it gave McCain 61% of its vote in 2008. The 8th’s incumbent is Republican John Boehner, currently the House minority leader. If Republicans win control of the House, Boehner is expected to become Speaker. Boehner has been in office since 1990 and has won every re-election campaign with at least 60% of the vote. Boehner has raised over $7.3 million in the current campaign cycle, most of which has gone to funding Republican candidates around the country and the NRCC. His token Democratic challenger is retired Army Captain Justin Coussoule who has raised just over $160,000. Boehner will easily win reelection in 2010. Given his seniority and leadership position, Boehner’s seat looks safe in 2012 as well. At 656,439, it is about 9% below the ideal population level, a margin that will likely be made up by adding voters from the counties to the east and of it.
Ohio’s 4th congressional district is in central Ohio and encompasses ten and a half counties: Champaign, Shelby, Logan, Auglaize, Allen, Hardin, Hancock, Marion, Morrow, Richland and half of Wyandot. The district is fairly rural with a manufacturing economy. It is also solidly Republican, voting 60% for McCain in 2008 and 64% and 65% for Bush in 2000 and 2004 respectively. It has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R +15 and is 91% white. The 4th’s incumbent is Republican Jim Jordan, who is currently serving his second term after being re-elected with 65% of the vote in 2008. Jordan has raised over $760,000 while his Democratic challenger Doug Litt has yet to break $6,000. Jordan and the Republicans are certain to retain the 4th after the 2010 elections. The 4th has an estimated population of 630,249, making it about 12.6% below the ideal population level. In a Republican controlled redistricting, it will probably be expanded to the east and south with conservative voters. If redistricting is bi-partisan, the 4th might be in some danger of being drastically changed, due to its severe underpopulation. One scenario could involve legislators combining large parts of the 4th and 5th districts as discussed in the previous post.
Ohio’s 7th congressional district is in south central Ohio and has an economy historically based on manufacturing. The district includes Clark, Greene, Fayette, Pickaway, Fairfield and Perry counties, along with parts of Ross and Franklin counties. Its population is centered in Springfield and Wright Patterson Air Force Base in the west and Fairfield and Franklin counties in the east. The 7th is solidly Republican; it has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+7 and voted for McCain by a nine-point margin in 2008. The incumbent in the 7th is first term Republican congressman Steve Austria. In a scandal filled race, Austria beat out Democrat Sharen Neuhardt 58-42, having raised $1.2 million to her $830,000. Austria has raised almost $730,000 in the current campaign cycle; Democratic challenger Bill Conner has not reported raising over $5,000. Liberatarian candidate John Anderson has raised over $150,000. Austria is not facing a serious challenge, and the Republicans will almost certainly retain the seat.
If Republicans control redistricting, the 7th should be preserved, though some of its conservative voters may be shifted to increase Republican odds in the 15th and/or 18th districts. If redistricting is bipartisan, however, and Republicans are forced to give up one of their districts, it may come down to a choice between the 5th and 7th districts. With its population of 675,355, the 7th is only 6.4% below the ideal population level, making it the fourth most-populous district in the state. But the 7th is a possibility to be eliminated given Austria’s short time in office and the fact that its conservative voters could be used by Republicans to strengthen themselves in neighboring seats such as the 15th, 12th, 3rd and 18th. The 18th in particular, although it leans Republican, is currently held by Democrat Zach Space. The infusion of more conservative voters from the 7th could tip the balance enough to change the seat.The 7th, however, may be saved by its solid population growth and instead expanded slightly into the districts bordering it.
The 12th district is in the center of the state and includes almost forty percent of Columbus. The 12th also includes Delaware County (the fastest growing county in the state), and most of Licking County to the east. Although Columbus has traditionally been Republican, it has become more liberal over recent years and the 12th district currently has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+1. The 12th’s incumbent is a Republican, however, and Pat Tiberi has been in office since 2000. Despite the close partisan balance of the district, he has had fairly easy re-elections in recent years.
In 2010, Tiberi will face Democrat Paula Brooks, Franklin County Commissioner. Tiberi is in the NRCC’s Patriot Program for vulnerable incumbents and realizes that he will face a tough race. While Brooks is a strong candidate, Tiberi has risen to the challenge so far, raising $2.6 million to Brooks’s $1.3 million. Additionally, national trends favoring Republicans and strong Republican candidates at the top of the ticket in Ohio will help Tiberi in 2010. While it will likely be closer than many other races in the state, Tiberi is expected to win the race for the 12th district. With a population of 736,099, the 12th is the largest district in the state by a margin of almost 50,000. This makes it the only district in the state that will actually be overpopulated, if only by about 2%, going into redistricting. Drawing new lines for the district will be contentious, however, given its split nature, and you can count on both Democrats and Republicans to try to put their voters into it while drawing those of the opposing party out.
Ohio’s 15th district is located in the center of the state and includes all but the eastern side of Columbus. It also encompasses southern and western Franklin County and Madison and Union Counties to the east. Thanks to registration and turn-out drives by Democrats in recent years, the district has become more liberal and it voted for Obama in 2008 by a nine-point margin. It has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+1. The incumbent from the 15th is first-term Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy. Kilroy beat out Republican Steve Stivers by only a couple thousand votes in the 2008 election, leading Republicans to target Kilroy in 2010. Stivers is challenging Kilroy again this fall; both have raised around $2.2 million, but Stivers has $1.2 million cash on hand while Kilroy has less than $200,000. A recent poll has Stivers beating Kilroy by 9%. The DCCC is attacking Stivers because he was a former banking lobbyist (almost the exact same attack it ran in 2008). While the race will likely be close, this time the political momentum is with Stivers and the Republicans, making the 15th a possible gain for Republicans in November. The 15th has a population of 678,699, making it currently the most populous Democratic-held district. If Stivers wins, the 15th will be the third most-populous Republican district at about 5.6% below the ideal population level. As with the 12th, the new lines for the 15th will be controversial, perhaps even more so as it needs to add about 42,000 new residents. Each party will surely fight to have their supporters more strongly represented in this district. All four of these central Ohio districts should see plenty of change in 2012, although all but the 15th are expected to stay in the same party control until then.
Ohio’s 9th congressional district is centered on Toledo, on the northern edge of the state. It encompasses all of Ottawa and Erie counties and parts of Lucas and Lorain. The auto industry has historically been very important to the district’s economy and the recent recession hit the area very hard. The 9th has been Democratic for most of its recent history, giving Obama 62% of its vote in 2008. It currently has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+10. The 9th’s incumbent is Democrat Marcy Kaptur, the longest serving woman currently in the House. She was first elected in 1982. Kaptur has currently raised just over $450,000, well below that of Republican challenger Rich Iott, who has raised over $1.8 million. However, Kaptur has over $900,000 cash on hand from previous cycles compared to Iott’s $180,000 cash on hand; much of Iott’s money is self-funded. Iott was a “Contender” (the second tier) in the NRCC’s Young Guns Program. He recently saw some controversy after photos came to light of him dressed as a Nazi for a historical reenactment, and he was dropped from the NRCC’s Young Guns Program. It remains to be seen how strongly this will affect the race. Kaptur will probably have a closer election than usual but is likely to hold the 9th district. If Republicans win the hotly contested 15th district in November, the 9th district, with its population of 642,538, may be the most populous Democrat-held district in Ohio going into redistricting. If Kaptur can hold on to her seat, she will likely survive redistricting given her seniority and the district’s sizeable population. Depending on which seats are removed from the map, the 9th will gain extra voters from either the more conservative south or the more liberal east. If her election this November is close, each party will be eager to use redistricting to strengthen their own chances in this district. If Kaptur wins handily, Republicans may write off the 9th district and simply pack as many Democratic voters into it as they can to strengthen Republican chances in the surrounding districts.
The 10th congressional district includes most of western Cleveland as well as several Cuyahoga County suburbs to the south and west of the city. The 10th has had huge population losses since 2000. Having lost over 32,000 residents (almost a twentieth of its population) since 2000, it is one of only two districts in the state that has fallen below 600,000 people. The district is fairly liberal, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+8. In 2008, the 10th voted for Obama by a 59-39 margin over McCain. Democrat Dennis Kucinich, a recent presidential candidate, is the incumbent in the 10th. Kucinich heads into the general election having raised $660,000 in the current campaign cycle, far more than Republican challenger Peter Corrigan’s $200,000. Kucinich seems likely to hold onto his seat in 2010. Redistricting in 2012 could be a far different story, however. As a Democratic district will almost certainly need to be eliminated, and the under-populated Cleveland area is a sure target. While the 10th is only the second least populated district, the least populated is the Voting Rights Act-protected 11th. While Kucinich’s seniority and national exposure could save him, the 10th is in significant danger of being drawn out of the map in 2011, with the northern part being added to the 11th and the southern part combined with a portion of the 13th. To return to the House after 2012, Representative Kucinich may have to win a primary against Representative Sutton.
Ohio’s 11th district includes most of the Eastern side of Cleveland and the eastern suburbs. It has lost more residents than any other district in the state by a large margin. Between 2000 and 2008, the district is estimated to have lost over 90,000 residents, or 14.5% of its 2000 population. A Voting Rights Act district, the 11th is 58.4% African American, and it is the most Democratic district in the state. Its Cook Partisan Voting Index is D+32 and it voted for Obama by an 85-14 margin in 2008. The incumbent is first-term Democrat Marcia Fudge. Representative Fudge has raised over $520,000, is facing only token opposition from Republican Thomas Pekarek in 2010, and looks certain to win a second term. Given its severe underpopulation, the 11th district is in danger of being eliminated, but the Voting Rights Act will likely protect it. Assuming the elimination of the neighboring 10th, a large number of liberal voters will be available and Republicans may jump on the 11th as a place to put said voters without weakening themselves in a district where they are competitive. While the 11th will certainly be expanded geographically under this plan, it will probably look demographically similar to the way it does today.
Ohio’s 13th congressional district includes many of the suburbs in Cleveland and also the western part of Akron. It is one of the more oddly shaped districts in the state, particularly in the part of the district located in Summit County. The 13th also includes parts of Lorain, Cuyahoga and Medina Counties. The district leans Democratic, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+5. In 2008, it voted for Obama by a fifteen point margin over McCain. The incumbent in the 13th is Democrat Betty Sutton, first elected in 2006. She was re-elected easily in 2008. Republican Tom Ganley beat out five others in the primary to challenge Sutton this November. He raised over $2.1 million dollars, much of it left over from his abandoned campaign for Senate. Representative Sutton, in contrast, has raised over $1.5 million. The DCCC has attacked Ganley for complaints about his used car dealerships and there has been significant outside spending in the district, with the Democratic women’s group Emily’s List spending over $500,000 in ads to defeat Ganley. Ganley has been accused of sexual harassment and recently canceled all of his broadcast televisions ads (his campaign says he is simply switching to cable instead). Sutton is favored to win re-election, but Republicans are hopeful about their chances for an upset. The 13th has a population of 639,558, about 11.3% below the ideal population level for Ohio districts. It is likely that if the 10th district is split, much of its voting population will be put into the 13th. Kucinich might conceivably even be placed into the 13th, creating a tight race for Sutton in 2012 if he chooses to run against her.
The 14th congressional district is in the northeast corner of the state and includes the Cleveland-Akron area. It encompasses all of Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties and parts of Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage, and Trumbull. It has the largest Lake Erie shoreline of any district in Ohio. The 14th leans to the right, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+3. McCain won the district in 2008 by a margin of less than 800 votes. The district’s incumbent is Republican Steven LaTourette, who has been in office since 1994. LaTourette has raised over $1.1 million in the current election cycle; his Democratic challenger Bill O’Neill has raised over $110,000. LaTourette looks certain to win the 14th seat again in 2010. The 14th has a population of 655,432, making it about 9.2% below the ideal population level. With LaTourette’s seniority and the 14th’s current status as the only Republican held district in its area, the seat looks safe in redistricting. It is likely to be expanded towards the 17th and it may pick up some Republican areas from the 13th district, solidifying its place as a conservative stronghold in the northeast. On the whole, the Cleveland-Akron-Toledo area will see considerable change after redistricting occurs. It is the most likely area in the state to lose a seat due to its underpopulation.
Ohio’s 6th district runs along the Ohio River on the southeast border of the state, from Lawrence and Scioto counties in the south up to Columbiana and Mahoning in the north. The district has a high poverty rate of 17.1% and includes the poorest county in the state, Athens, 32% of whose residents live below the poverty line. The heavy steel and coal producing parts in the north of the district lean more Democratic while the southern counties have been trending more Republican. The 6th has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+2 and voted for McCain by a 50-48 margin in 2008. Incumbent Charlie Wilson is a Democrat who was first elected in 2006 after winning the Democratic nomination through a write-in campaign. He won both the general election in 2006 and in 2008 with 62% of the vote. In the House, he has been fairly moderate and joined the Blue Dog Coalition. Wilson has raised over $820,000 in this campaign cycle so far, while Republican challenger Bill Johnson has raised almost $500,000. However, Johnson has made it to the second tier “Contender” status in the NRCC’s Young Gun program, meaning that Republicans think he can beat Wilson, and the NRCC now has run ads criticizing Wilson for being too close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Additionally, the conservative group American Action Network may spend significant money in ads against Wilson in the final weeks of the campaign. Though this race is likely to be closer than Wilson’s earlier ones because of national trends favoring Republicans, Wilson is expected to hold onto the district. The 6th has an estimated population of 609,948, making it one of the least populous districts in the state at about 15.5% below the ideal level. If redistricting is controlled by the Republicans, which would mean two Democratic seats are likely to be eliminated, the 6th is danger of being severely redrawn or split apart entirely. Republicans may combine the more liberal northern parts of the 6th with the 18th district, creating one liberal district where there had been two. Both are fairly underpopulated, and the leftover areas can be given to surrounding and also underpopulated districts including the 17th, 2nd and 7th. The 17th, in the north, is perfectly positioned to take in some of the more liberal parts of the 6th, while the conservative bases in the 2nd and 7th in the south can be strengthened with the more Republican voters from the 6th and 18th.
Ohio’s 16th congressional district includes Canton, a manufacturing city home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The district also encompasses all of Stark and Wayne Counties and most of Ashland and Medina. Southern Wayne County boasts the largest Amish community in the world. The 16th is conservative, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+4. It narrowly voted for McCain in 2008 by a two point margin. The 16th district’s incumbent is Democrat John Boccieri, a first-term congressman who won the seat after 18-term Republican Ralph Regula retired in 2008. Boccieri has a close race ahead of him in November with Republican Jim Renacci running against him. Renacci has outraised Boccieri $2.2 million to $1.8 million. A poll from late September had Renacci up by 3%, while a Republican poll from August had Renacci up by 14%. The NRCC has been targeting Boccieri since April because of his alleged “flip-flop” on his healthcare vote and more recently for his ties to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The DCCC has attacked Renacci for not paying his taxes and for his support of a national sales tax. The DCCC and the NRCC both have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in this race already.
With a population of 633,570, the 16th has a fairly average population for Ohio districts but is still considerably below the level it will need to be at after redistricting and the removal of two seats. Given it’s size, it is likely safe for the most part in redistricting and will probably be stretched to the north and east where Democratic seats are more likely to be eliminated from the map.
The 17th congressional district in northeast Ohio includes parts of Trumbull, Mahoning, Portage and Summit Counties. It is an industrial area and one of the more Democratic districts in the state. The 17th has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+12 and voted for Obama in 2008 by a margin of 62-36. The incumbent in the district is Democrat Tim Ryan, currently serving his fourth term. Ryan’s challenger in November is Republican Jim Graham, a tea-party conservative who currently works as a pharmacist. Ryan has outraised Graham with over $1 million to Graham’s about $60,000 and Ryan looks certain to continue to hold onto the 17th district for the Democrats. The 17th has a population of about 610,619, making it 15.4% below the ideal population level. It is the fourth least-populous district in the state. As discussed in the opening article of this series, the 17th saw considerable change in the previous redistricting process. In 2011, it will probably be expanded towards its neighbors, taking in liberal voters from whatever Democratic districts end up being eliminated. As an already solid Democratic hold, Republicans will have few qualms about packing in even more liberal voters.
The 18th congressional district covers much of the hill country in the central eastern portion of the state. It is the largest geographic district in the state, spanning all or part of twelve different counties. The district has become fairly conservative in recent years, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+7. In 2008, McCain won the 18th with 53% of the vote to Obama’s 45%. The incumbent for the 18th is Democrat Zack Space, a second term congressman, who has won both of his elections with over 60% of the vote. Republican Bob Gibbs is running against Space in 2010. Space has raised over $2.4 million in the current election cycle; Gibbs has raised over $940,000. Both national parties are involved in the race. The Democrats are attacking Gibbs for his support of NAFTA and other trade deals, while Republicans are attacking Space for his support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Despite the Republican lean of the district and the Republican trend in 2010, Space’s campaign and fundraising skills make him a strong candidate (recent polls have Space winning). However, this will likely be a close election.
With a population of about 639,281, the 18th is 11.4% below the ideal population level, making one of the larger Democrat-held districts. As discussed above in the section on District 6, one possible Republican approach to eliminating two Democratic districts is the combination of parts of the 18th and 6th districts. If redistricting is bi-partisan, however, the 18th stands a better chance at preservation. In this case, it would likely take in voters from the southwest or northwest corner depending on which Republican seat is eliminated.
In conclusion, while Democrats currently hold ten of Ohio’s eighteen seats, this is highly unlikely to last through November. Republicans are in good shape to hold on to all of their eight seats in November and to pick up several more. Republicans may finish this election with as many as 13 of Ohio’s 18 seats, although a slighter smaller margin is more likely. In the case of a Republican controlled redistricting in which they eliminate two Democratic seats, Republicans could find themselves with anywhere from an 11-5 to a 13-3 majority going into November 2012. Things will be more balanced if redistricting is bi-partisan, although Republicans will still have ten to twelve of the state’s 16 districts post-redistricting.
No matter who is in control of the redistricting process next year, it is sure to be contentious and highly charged thanks to the loss of two seats. Democrats will have a particularly hard time, as most of the state’s lost population came from their urban strongholds.