Ohio Redistricting: The Western Districts

Today’s post on redistricting in Ohio will look at the westernmost districts in the state: the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 8th. The link to the map below shows Ohio with those particular districts highlighted.

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Representative Steve Driehaus

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.

Ohio's 1st District

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 it 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.

Ohio's 2nd District
Representative Jean Schmidt

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 District

Congressman Michael Turner

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 District

Ohio’s 5th congressional district is in the northwestern corner of the state and comprises a relatively rural region. The largest metropolitan area is

Congressman Bob Latta

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
Congressman John Boehner

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.

Tomorrow’s post, the third in our series on Ohio redistricting, will discuss the districts located around Columbus in central Ohio: the 4th, 7th, 12th and 15th.

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