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Published: Friday, 8/22/2003

Kucinich, Brown targets of GOP redistricting talk

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Top Ohio Republicans have discussed reopening the congressional district map that went into effect last year to target Democrat U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Sherrod Brown in northeast Ohio.

The discussions have outraged Ohio Democrats. Democratic lawmakers in Texas have been boycotting a special legislative called by Republicans to conduct a similar redrawing of that state's congressional districts. There's been a similar attempt in Colorado.

Gov. Bob Taft and GOP legislative leaders have expressed little interest in reopening such a contentious issue.

“[The governor] believes the map is a good one,” Taft spokesman Orest Holubec said. “Traditionally, we redistrict a map every 10 years in Ohio, which gives predictability and helps avoid voter confusion.”

District lines are usually redrawn at the start of each decade to reflect population shifts recorded by the latest U.S. Census. Ohio lost one of its 19 congressional seats after the 2000 Census because its population grew at a slower rate than that of some other states in the 1990s. The district that disappeared was held by a Democrat.

It's a political process in which the party controlling the legislature, Republicans in 2001, try to fashion districts to promote their interests while following federal guidelines regarding population and minority voting clout.

“There is some grass-roots movement to look at changing the lines,” said Jason Mauk, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party. “There is nothing concrete at the moment.

“It's fair to say there's been a lot of feedback from Republicans in northeast Ohio who are not happy with their congressional representation,” he said. “Specifically, some are appalled at some of the things Dennis Kucinich has said on the campaign trail in his presidential bid.”

Some Democrats also have suggested Mr. Brown of Lorain, a former Ohio secretary of state and possible statewide candidate in 2006, is more of a target than Mr. Kucinich of Cleveland. Republicans treated Mr. Brown fairly well in the post-2000 redistricting after he threatened a statewide run, possibly against Gov. Bob Taft, in 2002 if he were uprooted.

There was no indication yesterday what ripple effect changes in northeast Ohio might have on bordering districts like those of by U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort).

“These congressional districts are only eight months old,” Ohio House Minority Leader Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island) said. “Ohioans have barely had a chance to get acquainted with their new members of Congress, and now some Republicans are concocting a scheme to take those members away, all in the crass pursuit of political power.”



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