GOP protect redistricting turf

Protecting Turf is GOP Aim in Congressional Redistricting

After wiping Democrat's district off the map, Republicans say there's not much else to grab
Friday, June 17, 2011 03:06 AM
By Jim Siegel

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A legislative panel yesterday formally kicked off the process of redrawing Ohio's congressional districts, where majority Republicans will try to erase two seats without hurting members of their own party.

Riding a national wave in the 2010 election, Republicans won 13 of Ohio's 18 congressional districts. But Ohio's lack of population growth is costing it two seats, meaning state lawmakers must redraw only 16 districts.

"My sense is we will try to retain as many Republican congressmen as we can," Speaker William G. Batchelder said after the initial meeting of the Legislative Task Force on Redistricting.

"When you lose two, that's tough. At this point, I don't know any other districts that Republicans can win, so there's no districting on that account. It's a question of protecting our own."

Story continues belowAdvertisement It is a near certainty that Republicans will eliminate one Democratic district - U.S. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich's Cleveland-area 10th District is an often-mentioned target. The struggle will be eliminating a second district without costing the Republicans, or significantly watering down GOP support in Republican-held districts.

Batchelder noted that Ohio does not have any senior congressmen on the verge of retirement. The Medina Republican said he has "heard such chatter but have seen no map," regarding plans that could eliminate two Democratic seats. But Batchelder said he is concerned about over-reaching to the point that GOP district strength would be weakened. He also noted the volatility of the 2008 and 2010 elections.

"I don't think you can count on having districting dictate who wins," he said.

House Minority Leader Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, said the state is pretty evenly divided politically, and the districts should represent that.

"I'm hoping the Republicans will do what we all talked about last cycle, which is to create as many fair and competitive districts as possible," he said.

Budish added that he hopes the public gets involved by using software advancements that will allow anyone with a computer to try their hand at drawing lines.

A coalition of groups including the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio Citizen Action is sponsoring a map-drawing contest this summer. Information is at The Ohio secretary of state's office also will develop a website for public comment on the redistricting process.

The task force met briefly yesterday and allocated $130,000 each to legislative Democrats and Republicans to pay for staff and equipment related to the redistricting process.

The state Apportionment Board, a GOP-controlled five-member panel led by the governor, will draw legislative districts later this year.

Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, said he has not had much discussion with Ohio's congressional delegation yet about drawing the lines, but "I'm sure we will begin hearing from them."

"Because Republicans hold the majority of seats, it makes it tougher on Republicans," he said.