Ohio Loses Two Districts
Ohio’s recently completed congressional redistricting centered on its loss of two seats after the 2010 Census, reducing its total from 18 to 16. Currently, Republicans hold 13 seats, while Democrats hold five seats. Both houses of the legislature, referred to as the General Assembly, are responsible for drawing new congressional maps. Currently, the Ohio House of Representatives consists of 46 Republicans and 53 Democrats, while the State Senate has 21 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Republican John Kasich is the governor. Both houses of the Ohio General Assembly began deliberations on potential redistricting plans on June 16, 2011, with a preliminary plan being released in September 2011. The plan divided Ohio into 12 Republican districts and 4 Democratic districts, a loss of 1 seat for each party.
The plan passed the House of Representatives on September 15, the State Senate on September 21, and was signed into law by Governor John Kasich on September 26. On September 28, the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court over an appropriations provision included by the Senate Republicans that would have precluded a Democratic challenge to the plan from being placed on the 2012 ballot. In its decision, the court ruled that a statewide referendum on the map would be permissible, in a victory Ohioans for Fair Districts, a state Democratic Party-backed group working to place the maps on the ballot for the 2012 election.
Fearing that a referendum could overturn their map, Republicans sought the support of African American legislators for a new congressional map. Following a drawn out negotiating process, both sides came to an agreement on December 14 and passed a map that strengthened Democratic support in urban centers, solidifying each of the Democrat’s four seats and negating the threat of referendum.
The First is located in the southwestern corner of Ohio, and includes portions of Warren and Hamilton Counties, as well as a small slice of Cincinnati. As a heavily agricultural and rural area, the First has been a consistent Republican district and will likely continue to be even more so under the new redistricting plan due to the inclusion of heavily Republican Warren County. Under the old plan, the First had an element of unpredictability brought about by suburban Cincinnati in Hamilton County. Indeed, in the 2008 Presidential election, Hamilton County swung for Barack Obama by a margin of 5%. By contrast, Warren County has routinely elected Republican candidates by margins of 30% or greater since 1992. The inclusion of Warren County into the First will likely quash any Democratic contenders or leanings in the district, and make it a Republican stronghold. The Republican incumbent, Steve Chabot, was first elected in 1999, and faces political newcomer Jeff Sinnard, the Democratic challenger.
The Ohio Second runs along the western half of Ohio’s border with Kentucky. It is comprised of eastern Cincinnati in Hamilton County and Claremont, Brown, Adams, Highland, Ross, and Pike Counties, as well as the western half of Scioto County. While parts of the district are urban, the majority of the district is made up of agricultural farmland. A Republican has represented Ohio’s Second Congressional District since 1983, making it one of Ohio’s most solidly Republican districts. While the addition of Ross and Highland Counties to the Second adds a number of liberal areas to the district, they are greatly outweighed by Anderson Township – a Tea Party bastion that is one of the most populous townships in Ohio. The district’s four-term Republican incumbent, Jean Schmidt, lost in the 2012 primary to a Tea Party-backed challenger, Brad Wenstrup. Wenstrup will face Democrat William Smith in the general election.
The Third Congressional District has been completely relocated from southwest to central Ohio. The new district is centered on the Columbus metropolitan area, a longtime Democratic stronghold, and includes portions of surrounding Franklin County. Under the old plan, Columbus Democrats had been divided into three Republican districts, diluting their power. Democrat Joyce Beatty, former Ohio Assembly minority leader, will face Republican Reynoldsburg City Councilman Chris Long in November.
The new Ohio Fourth encompasses a large part of northwest Ohio, as well as an upward arm that reaches north towards Lake Erie. While the northwestern section remains largely the same, the district traded its reach into central Ohio for the arm towards Lake Erie. The Fourth Congressional District has been a Republican district since 1938, and will likely remain so under the new map. Though incumbent Jim Jordan’s new district has added parts of the Democratic-leaning Sandusky, Erie, and Lorain Counties, their Democratic populations are balanced by the agricultural Republican strongholds of Allen, Auglaize, and Shelby Counties, which consistently vote in Republican candidates with double digit margins. The 2012 congressional election will be between Republican incumbent Jim Jordan and Democratic political newcomer Jim Slone.
The Fifth District is located in the northwest corner of the state. Indiana borders it to the west and Michigan to the north. The new plan removed the more centrist Sandusky, Seneca, Huron, and Crawford Counties in the eastern part of the district and replaced them with consistently Republican agricultural counties such as Hardin, Wyandot, and Hancock. Similar to the Fourth, Ohio’s Fifth District has been represented by a Republican since 1938. Indeed, Democratic challengers in the Fifth are nearly always defeated by double-digit margins. The incumbent, Bob Latta, was first elected in 2006. In addition to being the incumbent his name recognition is further enhanced by the fact that his father, Del Latta, represented the Fifth District between 1959 and 1989. Latta will face Democrat Angela Zimmerman.
The Sixth District is made up of the counties that form the state’s southeastern border. It extends from Lawrence County in the south to part of Mahoning County at its northern edge. Ohio’s Sixth Congressional District is decidedly a swing district in the 2012 congressional election. While the old Ohio Sixth only included Southeastern Ohio’s border counties, the new map includes a number of more central counties, such as Guernsey and Harrison Counties. In the old plan, Democrats drew the majority of their support from the semi-urban Jefferson, Belmont, Monroe, and Athens Counties. Republicans have attempted to counter this by removing Athens County from the district, and adding the heavily Republican, but sparsely populated, Guernsey and Jackson Counties. The incumbent, Bill Johnson, is a freshman representative who rode the 2010 Tea Party surge to a 5-point victory over three-term Democrat Charlie Wilson Jr. Wilson Jr. will attempt to regain his seat from Johnson in the upcoming elections. Wilson Jr. was a member of the Congressional Blue Dog Caucus, which may make him more appealing to some Republicans and independents.
Ohio’s Seventh Congressional District has moved entirely from southern Ohio to become a central district, located just northeast of the geographic center of the state. The new, crescent shaped district is made up of agricultural counties that consistently elect Republican representatives by double-digit margins. Democrat Joyce Healy-Abrams and Bob Gibbs, the current Republican representative for the Ohio Eighteenth District, are running for this seat.
The Eight Congressional District comprises the southern half of Ohio’s border with Indiana. It is made up of Butler, Preble, Duke, Miami, Clark, and part of Mercer Counties. It is home to John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives. His district changed only slightly with the inclusion of Clark County, a moderate area that will only slightly dilute the otherwise heavily Republican makeup of the Ohio Eighth. Boehner is running unopposed in 2012.
The new Ninth Congressional District is controversial due to its striking, serpentine shape. The district is made up of small coastal portions of Lucas, Ottawa, Erie, and Lorain Counties. At one point, the district narrows to a 20-yard wide sliver of a bridge, and is connected at parts by a beach. It includes the homes of Democratic Representatives Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich. While the makeup of the district is decidedly Democratic, the inclusion of two Democrats in the district meant that Democrat Dennis Kucinich is without a seat after losing to Kaptur in the primary election. Kaptur will face Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as “Joe the Plumber” in November.
The Tenth Congressional District once represented a small portion of the Cleveland metropolitan area, making it a safe Democratic district for incumbent Dennis Kucinich. However, the redistricting process shifted the seat entirely to the southwestern part of the state, and it now consists of three counties: Montgomery, Greene, and Fayette. Dayton is the largest city in the district. While the district is somewhat balanced by the liberal leaning area of Dayton, it is dominated by the populations of the surrounding Republican counties. The 2012 election features a race between the Republican Mike Turner, who currently represents the old Third District, and Democratic candidate, Sharon Swartz Neuhardt.
Ohio’s Eleventh Congressional District is made up of heavily liberal eastern Cleveland. The district was barely touched in the redistricting process, with the only change being a small extension into neighboring Summit County. The district is the most Democratic-leaning district in Ohio. Indeed, the incumbent, Representative Marcia Fudge is unopposed by any Republican challenger.
The Twelfth District is in the middle of the state, just northwest of Columbus. It includes Morrow, Delaware, and Licking Counties, as well as parts of Marion, Richland, and Muskingum Counties. Similar to the Eleventh, Ohio’s Twelfth District has been redistricted to be an even safer seat for the incumbent party. The district has been represented by a Republican since 1938, and is currently represented by five-term incumbent, Pat Tiberi. The new district includes parts of heavily Republican Muskingum and Morrow counties, and excludes portions of liberal Columbus, making the new district more Republican. Representative Tiberi will face Democratic political newcomer James Reese in the general election.
Ohio’s Thirteenth Congressional District has been redistricted almost exactly to the lines of the old Seventeenth in the northeastern part of the state. It now includes Akron, as well as portions of Portage, Mahoning, and Trumbull Counties, all of which have voted consistently Democratic for a number of years. Incumbent Betty Sutton’s home is now in the Sixteenth. The new Thirteenth includes the home of Democrat Timothy Ryan, a four-term incumbent of the Ohio Seventeenth. Representative Ryan will be facing Republican Marisha Agana in November.
The Fourteenth District is in the northeastern corner of the state, bordered by Lake Erie to the north and Pennsylvania to the east. It has barely changed in the entire redistricting process, save for a small extension into Trumbull County. The district is extremely competitive, being comprised of right-leaning Geuga and Lake Counties, and left-leaning Ashtabula, Summit, and Trumbull Counties. Republican Representative Steven LaTourette has been consistently reelected with double-digit margins; his new district includes more liberal areas than before and may now be competitive. Representative LaTourette faces Democratic political novice Dale Blanchard in November.
The Ohio Fifteenth Congressional District is significantly changed. It now surrounds Columbus in a crescent around Columbus’ northern, western, and southern borders, and extends into southeastern Ohio. Previously it was limited to just the western suburbs of Columbus and Union County. While it still includes the Republican stronghold of Madison County, ten new counties in south-central Ohio now dominate the district. As a result, Republican Representative Steve Stivers has as only a small portion of his old district in the new Fifteenth. Stivers will run against Democrat Pat Lang, the elected director of the Athens City Law Department.
The Sixteenth Congressional District is in the northeastern quadrant of Ohio. It fills the hole left by the Seventh District’s crescent shape. It has shed much of its agricultural counties and has extended into the suburbs of Akron. While the old Ohio Sixteenth included portions of Ashland, Stark, and Medina Counties, these counties have been replaced by including all of Akron and its surrounding suburbs. The district now includes the home of Betty Sutton, a popular Democratic incumbent who has been redistricted out of the Thirteenth, and will run for election in the new Ohio Sixteenth. Incumbent Jim Renacci, who was first elected to Congress as part of the 2010 Tea Party surge, faces a tough reelection campaign here. Due to the liberal areas of Akron being balanced out by agricultural Wayne County, Ohio’s Sixteenth district can go either way in 2012.
Ohio’s loss of two congressional seats led to an overhaul of the state’s congressional districts, resulting in a mix of safe seats and competitive districts. However, Ohio’s delegation to the House of Representatives will most likely remain largely Republican. Eight of Ohio’s new Congressional districts are likely GOP wins, while only four are comfortably Democratic.