ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
LIMA, Ohio — In what one lawmaker characterized as a “love-fest” for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, witnesses Tuesday criticized any Ohio congressional redistricting process that could be used as a bully club against a sitting congressman.
“Why you would stab a fellow Republican in the back like this — not just a Republican but a Republican that acted like one and is standing for what the party stands for, standing for the Constitution, and doing what he thinks is right and what he campaigned on?” asked Daniel Griffith, of Caledonia in Marion County.
“We elected him to do exactly what he did,’’ he said.
Mr. Griffith testified in Lima, part of Mr. Jordan’s 4th District that reports claim could be endangered because the third-term congressman rebuffed U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s call for GOP support for a last-ditch agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and address deficit spending.
The extremely conservative Mr. Jordan cast one of two votes, out of 13 Ohio Republicans, against a deal that President Obama argued was necessary to ensure the nation would not default on its financial obligations. The second “no” vote belonged to Rep. Mike Turner (R., Centerville).
Ohio must surrender two of its 18 congressional districts because of its sluggish population growth over the last decade, and special Ohio Senate and House committees have been holding hearings across the state on how the maps should be redrawn.
Because Republicans control the process, at least one of the two districts to disappear is expected to belong to a Democrat, most likely U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, of Cleveland.
There’s been some doubt, however, as to whether the Republican majority at the Statehouse can also erase a second Democratic-held district in northern Ohio without watering down the Republican base of neighboring districts in the process. The question has then become which Republican-held district might be sacrificed, and Mr. Jordan’s perceived disloyalty to the Speaker of the House, a fellow Ohioan, may have put a target on his back.
The largely rural, agricultural, conservative, and strongly Republican 4th District encompasses all or part of 11 counties. It stretches as far north as Hancock County and south to Champaign County and includes such cities as Findlay, Lima, Marion, and Mansfield. Mr. Jordan lives near the southern tip of the district in Urbana.
But the issue is much bigger than just one congressman, said Jim Slagle, manager of the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting. The coalition of voting and government watchdog groups is hosting a contest for those who draw the fairest districts.
“I think we all agree that the 4th Congressional District ought not to be determined on whether Congressman Jordan or Congressman Boehner see eye to eye on a debt-reduction deal,’’ he said. “The fact that that is in the public discourse and the fact that people are concerned that that could be the case strikes to the public confidence issue.
“Frankly, people don’t have confidence in this process because we have 200 years of history of this process being done in a partisan way to gain political advantage for a party,’’ Mr. Slagle said.
Mr. Jordan’s district must change in order to pick up additional people to meet the new map’s population goals. But both state Rep. Matt Huffman (R., Lima) and Sen. Keith Faber (R., Celina), chairmen of their respective redistricting committees, downplayed reports that Mr. Jordan is being targeted.
“I don’t think you can draw Jim Jordan into a Democrat district,’’ Mr. Faber said. “The population and the demographics of our area would never support that. But the bigger issue would be can you divide Jim’s district among two or three other Republicans. The reality of that, in my perspective, is it would be very difficult for anyone to do it in a way that hurts Jim Jordan and doesn’t hurt one of the other Republicans.”