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Published: Wednesday, 12/14/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

House and Senate pass revised congressional map

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

The city of Toledo will be represented by two congressmen in Washington instead of three under a long-awaited new congressional map approved Wednesday following a bitter, months-long partisan feud.

Under the redistricting compromise, portions of Toledo and eastern Lucas County that went to the largely rural 4th District now held by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana) under a law passed in September will instead be restored to the 9th District held by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).

Six western city wards will remain part of the otherwise rural and suburban 5th District held by U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green).

“Through the compromise of the last couple of months, this is the best scenario that we could probably get,’’ said state Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo), who had been holding out for making Toledo whole again within the 9th District.

“It improves Marcy Kaptur’s situation by allowing her maybe 100,000 more people and a bigger share of the city, and by removing Jim Jordan,” he said.

The last-minute push for a deal on the final day of the session before lawmakers’ holiday recess also led to agreement to restore a single March 6 primary election. The uncertainty over congressional district lines had led lawmakers to previously divide the primary in two — one on March 6 for state legislative, local, judicial, and U.S. Senate races and a second on June 12 for congressional and presidential delegates whose races are tied to congressional lines.

The dual primary would have cost the state an estimated $15 million.

The compromise also includes a task force to come up with an alternative to the current highly partisan redistricting process.

The House voted 77-17 on the new map as enough Democrats joined majority Republicans to push the measure over the 66-vote supermajority needed to have it take effect immediately without the threat of a voter referendum.

The Senate was waiting in the wings Wednesday night to vote 27-6 to send the measure on to Gov. John Kasich’s desk, again with a supermajority vote.

Democrats had used the threat of subjecting the prior map to a voter referendum in November, 2012, to keep majority Republicans talking, but that threat appeared to have had less teeth as doubts were raised over whether they could gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot by the Christmas deadline.

The new map is considered to be just slightly friendlier to Democrats than the one adopted this fall primarily with Republican votes that critics contended created 12 safe or leaning Republican districts to four solidly Democratic, urban-based districts.

The compromise adopted Wednesday was a variation on a proposal floated by Republicans in November that was shelved when Democrats refused to help the GOP come up with a supermajority vote of 66 members that would have allowed the map to take effect immediately without the threat of a referendum.

“This map has been sitting around for six weeks,’’ said Rep. Matt Huffman (R., Lima), the bill’s sponsor. While the changes made since the November proposal were minor, he described the new map as “a lot better than [House Bill] 319,” the legal map adopted in September that Democrats threatened to take to voters.

House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) confirmed that no changes were made to the 9th District since the floating of that November proposal. The only major change between this and the November proposal was in the makeup of a minority-influenced, Columbus-based district, according to Mr. Huffman.

The final map would move about 100,000 residents of the city of Toledo and Lucas County that are now largely in Mr. Jordan’s 4th District back into Miss Kaptur’s 9th. Mr. Jordan’s district would instead shift farther east well into Lorain County to make up for the lost population.

The revised 9th District would still stretch along the Lake Erie shoreline from Toledo to Cleveland and would still presumably set up a Democratic primary election contest between Miss Kaptur and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich. The changes, however, are believed to be more favorable to Miss Kaptur than Mr. Kucinich.

Mr. Kucinich was unavailable for comment Wednesday night. He had opposed the compromise, and Cleveland Democrats have worried that the changes could prompt Mr. Kucinich to run instead in the redrawn black-majority 11th District stretching from Cleveland to Akron. That would pit Mr. Kucinich, who is white, in a Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge and state Sen. Nina Turner, who are both black.

‘‘There’s a strong possibility that, as a consequence of this bill, that the only African-American that serves in the U.S. Congress from the state of Ohio stands a strong chance of not serving,” said state Rep. John Barnes (D., Cleveland). “... That’s in essence what this does, because politics is based on mathematics.’’

Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) called the final map an improvement.

“Am I totally satisfied? No,” she said. “Toledoans deserve one congressman to represent them. This redistricting process has been disappointing. The fact is that Ohio is a 50-50 state, and the representatives that put this map together did not reflect the true Ohio.”

Staff writer Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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