Lucas County to be split three ways under redistricting proposal

9/13/2011
BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Republican representatives Jim Jordan, left, and Bob Latta stand to gain parts of Lucas County.
Republican representatives Jim Jordan, left, and Bob Latta stand to gain parts of Lucas County.

COLUMBUS — A new proposed congressional map to be unveiled Tuesday would split Lucas County three ways.

If it becomes law, the county would be represented by districts now held by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat; U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, a Bowling Green Republican, and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, an Urbana Republican.

The bill's author, state Rep. Matt Huffman (R., Lima), confirmed Tuesday that Mr. Latta's 5th District would pick up a large section of western Lucas County and be largely compact in the northwestern corner of the state.

Meanwhile, Mr. Jordan's vast new 4th District, stretching as far south as Springfield, would surrender Hancock County to Mr. Latta and work its way up through the central part of the state through such counties as Seneca, Sandusky, and Ottawa and pick up a portion of eastern Lucas in the Oregon area. Mr. Jordan’s district would also pick up a portion of Mr. Latta’s home of Wood County.

As expected, the 9th District represented by Ms. Kaptur would continue to snake along the Lake Erie shoreline from Toledo through all or portions of Ottawa, Erie, and Lorain counties and then even farther into western Cuyahoga County and West Cleveland. That would put Ms. Kaptur and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, two of the most outspoken Democrats in Congress, in the same district and potentially set up a primary fight between them in 2012.

The 9th District has often been cited by critics of the current redistricting process as one that fares poorly in meeting the goals of having districts as geographically compact and contiguous as possible.

This map shows the proposed redistricting for Ohio's congressional districts. Orange = Bob Latta; Green = Marcy Kaptur; Purple = Jim Jordan.
This map shows the proposed redistricting for Ohio's congressional districts. Orange = Bob Latta; Green = Marcy Kaptur; Purple = Jim Jordan.

The only thing allowing the district to claim it is contiguous is a bridge and water.

"When we do compactness measures, it scores exceedingly low,’’ said Jim Slagle, of the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting. "If it went to Cleveland, it would score even lower. It runs counter to one of our principles, which is compactness."

The campaign — a coalition of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, Ohio Citizen Action, and other organizations—sponsored an online competition in which members of the public proposed their own maps.

Mr. Kucinich has long been considered one of the most likely targets of a GOP-held eraser when Ohio learned that its sluggish population growth over the last 10 years would cost it two of its 18 congressional seats.

A second, GOP-held district in southwest Ohio will also be sacrificed as elements of the 7th District held by U.S. Rep. Steve Austria (R., Beavercreek) and the 3rd District held by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R., Dayton) are combined, setting up a potential primary contest between them.

The map would also seek to make several suburban Columbus GOP congressmen feel more secure by congregating many Franklin County Democrats into a new city-based district that would be considered safe for a Democrat.

To offset the Democratic gain in Columbus, two northeast congressmen — U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, an Akron area Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, a Wadsworth Republican — would be put in a district that on paper would favor the Republican.

The bill will be introduced Tuesday and discussed at a hearing of the House State Government and Elections Committee, chaired by Mr. Huffman. A House vote could come Wednesday or Thursday.

"I'm concerned about the length of that (9th) District," said Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon), the second highest-ranking Democrat in the House.

"I understand, with the reduction of two congressional districts, that we're going to see significantly more population in the remaining 16 districts," he said. "I prefer to see the district more condensed and based on fairness, as opposed to political concerns. Positioning Kaptur and Kucinich against each other is clearly politically motivated."