COLUMBUS - Despite words of goodwill between Democrats and Republicans at the start of the process, partisan politics ruled the day yesterday as a GOP-controlled committee drew the final boundaries for state legislative districts.
Although every motion made by Democrats to change the maps failed, legislative leaders from both parties said they don't expect the new lines for Ohio House and Senate districts to dramatically favor one side over the other.
Republicans control the House, 59-40, and the Senate, 21-12.
“This reapportionment has given Democrats some good opportunities,” said House Minority Leader Dean DePiero (D., Parma), who had been bracing himself for bad news.
The final map, however, does displace a handful of incumbents, including freshman Rep. Tom Lendrum (R., Huron), who suddenly finds himself living in the new 80th District represented by third-year Rep. Chris Redfern (D., Port Clinton).
The 80th, pushed east out of Lucas County by geographic expansion of districts in Toledo, now consists of most of Ottawa County and all of Erie, Mr. Lendrum's home county.
“It's a difficult district,” said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett. “Ottawa is becoming more Republican. I would consider that to be a tough, competitive district.”
The plan puts two Cuyahoga County Democrats in the same House district and pits a Republican incumbent against a Democratic colleague in a southeastern Ohio district. It places Democrat and Republican lawmakers in the same Cuyahoga Senate district.
Before approving the map along a 4-1, party-line vote, the Ohio Apportionment Board made some last-minute changes to the House and Senate districts held by three Democrats in the city of Toledo, adopting a proposal submitted by the NAACP.
That version shifts a handful of wards among the new 47th District, held by Rep. Teresa Fedor; the 48th District, held by Rep. Jack Ford; and the 49th District, held by Rep. Jeanine Perry.
The changes increase the concentration of African-Americans in Mr. Ford's district from about 44 percent of the voting age population to about 49 percent.
The most dramatic changes in northwest Ohio occur in Lucas County, where the population loss in the 1990s was the greatest, particularly in Toledo.
Although Ms. Fedor's and Mr. Ford's districts are within the city, Ms. Perry's city-based district was pushed into the eastern Lucas County suburbs of Oregon and Jerusalem Township, displacing Mr. Redfern from the county.
Population losses in Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties were great enough to cost them seats in the House.
The plan preserves the 14 House districts and four Senate seats held by blacks, but Democrats argued the GOP-controlled committee could have set up more districts in which African-American candidates would have an opportunity.
They continued to question the Republicans' hiring of the NAACP's reapportionment coordinator as their own $44,000 expert on minority districts, suggesting a conflict of interest. The only other consultant hired by Republicans was the board's secretary, Scott Borgemenke. The lobbyist and former aide to Gov. Bob Taft was paid $60,000 for his role in crafting the maps.