Ohio Redistricting: The Central Districts

Today’s post on Ohio redistricting will look at the districts surrounding Columbus located in central Ohio: the 4th, 7th, 12th, and 15th. Only the 15th is currently held by a Democrat, and Republicans may win that seat in November. After redistricting, however, some of these districts could look very different.

Ohio's 4th District

Congressman Jim Jordan

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 District
Representative Steve Austria
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.

Ohio's 12th District
Representative Pat Tiberi
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

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

Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy

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.

Tomorrow’s post, the fourth in our series about Ohio redistricting, will discuss the northern districts located around Cleveland including the 9th, 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th districts.

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