The release of U.S. Census data yesterday for Ohio triggers a complicated process that will reset the boundaries of the districts for federal and state lawmakers.
Ohio political leaders expect the fight to be rancorous, as officials work to compensate for the loss of a seat in Congress.
Also at issue is the quest for control of legislative bodies, they say, because the party that controls the reapportionment process almost always controls the legislatures in subsequent years.
Republicans now hold a dramatic advantage in the redrawing process. Of the five members on the state apportionment board, four are Republicans. The board oversees redrawing of state legislative boundaries. The state's congressional districts will be set by a bill passed by the Republican-dominated General Assembly.
In redrawing congressional boundaries, Republicans are expected to combine the 10th District held by Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland and the 13th District held by Democrat Sherrod Brown of Mansfield. Mr. Brown is expected to be ousted in the process and is apparently considering a run for governor against incumbent Republican Bob Taft, said David Leland, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.
Mr. Leland said he is optimistic his party's fortunes will improve next year. He said 2002 will be the midterm election of a Republican president - traditionally a difficult election for the incumbent's party - and he said a slowing economy should help Ohio Democrats.
Bob Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said that while congressional reapportionment will heavily affect northeast Ohio, ripples will be felt across the state.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) will likely need about 70,000 more voters in her district, most of which will probably be Republicans, he said. That would dilute her powerful Democratic base, but the GOP chairman said it is doubtful the popular congresswoman would be vulnerable in 2002.
“Most likely, it will affect the next incumbent of the seat,” Mr. Bennett said.
One school of thought on redistricting is that the GOP should push for changes in districts that further concentrate Democrats in the state's urban centers, making it harder for Republicans to win urban seats, but also making it harder for Democrats to win suburban seats where more Republicans live.