Ohio's Redistricting News
Dayton Daily News: "Rove seems to be playing in
Ohio." August 24, 2003
The White House has always denied being behind the effort to re-redistrict Texas so as to get more Republicans in Congress.
If you were accused of being behind that plan, you would want to deny it, too.
In Texas, the Republicans want to cram Democratic-leaning blacks and Hispanics into just a few districts. Their plan to redraw a map that was just drawn last year would overthrow an unwritten rule of American politics: that redistricting is done only once a decade. Once that rule is overthrown, the result could be perpetual fights over political maps, at the expense of fights over public policy.
Now redistricting efforts like the one in Texas have arisen in Colorado and Ohio. All are pushed by Republicans.
Given that such proposals have almost never arisen in the past, are we really supposed to believe that the presence of super-manipulator Karl Rove in the White House when all these efforts surface is just a coincidence?
Rove, after all, has been known to be a crucial participant in politics at the state level. There are people in Congress today who are there because they got a call from the White House. The entire political community understands that the White House hand is in everything that might affect the makeup of Congress.
This much can certainly be said: If Rove--whom Ohio Republican Chairman Robert Bennett has essentially acknowledged talking to about redistricting--had said, "Oh, no, please, let's not go there," it would all be over.
True, a lot of Ohio Republicans would like to redo this state's congressional maps long before the next scheduled redrawing in 2012. Ambitious politicians in the Cleveland-Akron area believe they could have succeeded Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown or Rep. Dennis Kucinich in 2002 with a little help from their friends in Columbus.
They are upset that the Republican leadership flinched before a threat from Brown: that he would run for governor if he were redistricted out of his seat.
They have a point. In truth, Gov. Bob Taft should have had no fear of Brown. Conditions were right for a Taft re-election in 2002. Brown, who has been secretary of state, would have been a stronger candidate than nominee Tim Hagan. But he would not have been magic. After all, he lost a bid for a third term as secretary of state to Taft himself in 1990. (Taft's campaign was particularly ugly; it left particularly hard feelings.)
Still, something is strange when the Republicans of 2003 are rising up against the Republicans of 2001 and 2002. At least in Texas the reason for the new Republican thrust on redistricting is that Republican strength in the state legislature has increased, thus presenting an opportunity to pass a different kind of map.
Ohio Chairman Bennett has supported the new redistricting. He might be assumed to be mending some internal party fences, by addressing the concerns of Republicans who were mad at the party leadership last year.
In reality, though, almost everybody in politics understands that redistricting is a once-a-decade thing. It's a given. That fact would dissuade some people from even going to Bennett.
Furthermore, the effort in Texas has invented a problem for the party. The Republicans have overwhelming control of the legislature, and have the governorship. They should be breezing along. Instead, the Democrats are refusing to even attend the legislative session (because a quorum would mean passage of the new map). They are thus throwing a monkey wrench into everything.
Moreover, Republican unity in the state is taking at least a small blow. One Republican state senator has said he just can't go along. He says the party plan will do damage that will last a decade.
In these particularly partisan times, when a party starts losing its own people on the most partisan of all issues--redistricting--it might be time to stop and think.
Gov. Bob Taft and Republican legislative leaders have indicated that they don't want to go the Texas route.
But Karl Rove doesn't have to worry about a state's governmental business being disrupted. He doesn't have to worry much about being accused of playing dirty. That's a common occurrence in his life and hasn't hurt him yet.
He has only one constituent, ultimately: the president. And so far the charges of playing dirty are stopping mainly at Rove's door. So there's no problem.
Martin Gottlieb is an editorial writer and columnist for the Dayton Daily News. He may be reached at 225-2288 or by e-mail at mgottlieb@DaytonDailyNews.com
COLUMBUS -- House Democratic Leader Chris Redfern said Wednesday he will fight a Texas-style plan some Republicans are pushing to carve up Northeast Ohio into new congressional districts.
"This is a blatant partisan stunt that would set a terrible precedent," said Rep. Redfern, D-Catawba Island. "This is the height of political arrogance, and it reflects the inherent unfairness of one-party rule," Redfern said.
"These congressional districts are only eight months old. Ohioans have barely had a chance to get acquainted with their new members of Congress - and now some Republicans are concocting a scheme to take those members away, all in the crass pursuit of political power."
Redfern's reaction was prompted by a report in Wednesday's Washington Post that some Republicans are circulating plans to redraw the lines in Ohio.
According to the plan -- also detailed recently in the Akron Beacon Journal -- some Republican insiders believe reshaping the districts now held by Dennis Kucinich and Sherrod Brown could produce an extra Republican seat.
The Washington Post made it clear that Ohio Republican chairman Bob Bennett has checked with White House political operative Karl Rove on the redistricting plan.
Rove's fingerprints are on other redistricting proposals. News reports have linked Rove to similar efforts in Colorado and Texas.
"While redistricting, unfortunately, is a political process, at least we used to only put Ohioans through it every 10 years after the federal census," Redfern said. "To throw out carefully agreed lines after just eight months? This would be a dangerous new escalation of political partisanship."
"I don't believe the voters of Ohio would stand for it."
COLUMBUS - Top Ohio Republicans have discussed reopening the congressional district map that went into effect last year to target Democrat U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Sherrod Brown in northeast Ohio.
The discussions have outraged Ohio Democrats. Democratic lawmakers in Texas have been boycotting a special legislative called by Republicans to conduct a similar redrawing of that states congressional districts. Theres been a similar attempt in Colorado.
Gov. Bob Taft and GOP legislative leaders have expressed little interest in reopening such a contentious issue.
"[The governor] believes the map is a good one," Taft spokesman Orest Holubec said. "Traditionally, we redistrict a map every 10 years in Ohio, which gives predictability and helps avoid voter confusion."
District lines are usually redrawn at the start of each decade to reflect population shifts recorded by the latest U.S. Census. Ohio lost one of its 19 congressional seats after the 2000 Census because its population grew at a slower rate than that of some other states in the 1990s. The district that disappeared was held by a Democrat.
Its a political process in which the party controlling the legislature, Republicans in 2001, try to fashion districts to promote their interests while following federal guidelines regarding population and minority voting clout.
"There is some grass-roots movement to look at changing the lines," said Jason Mauk, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party. "There is nothing concrete at the moment.
"Its fair to say theres been a lot of feedback from Republicans in northeast Ohio who are not happy with their congressional representation," he said. "Specifically, some are appalled at some of the things Dennis Kucinich has said on the campaign trail in his presidential bid."
Some Democrats also have suggested Mr. Brown of Lorain, a former Ohio secretary of state and possible statewide candidate in 2006, is more of a target than Mr. Kucinich of Cleveland. Republicans treated Mr. Brown fairly well in the post-2000 redistricting after he threatened a statewide run, possibly against Gov. Bob Taft, in 2002 if he were uprooted.
There was no indication yesterday what ripple effect changes in northeast Ohio might have on bordering districts like those of by U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort).
"These congressional districts are only eight months old," Ohio House Minority Leader Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island) said. "Ohioans have barely had a chance to get acquainted with their new members of Congress, and now some Republicans are concocting a scheme to take those members away, all in the crass pursuit of political power." Kucinich, Brown targets of GOP redistricting talk
Ohio Republicans may take a cue from state legislators in Texas and Colorado and tinker with the lines that shape their congressional districts.
Ohio Democrats emerged unscathed from redistricting after the 2000 census when district lines were redrawn to reflect changes in population -- even though the GOP controlled the entire process. The reason? Republicans did not want to anger Rep. Sherrod Brown (D), who threatened to run against Gov. Bob Taft if his district was changed.
Now some Republicans are looking at carving up northeast Ohio, which would reshape the seats of Brown, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D), and possibly other House members. "I've seen some plans floating around to do some line adjustments," state GOP Chairman Bob Bennett said.
Brown said the new effort is a White House ploy to expand the GOP's majority in the House. "The question is: How partisan do they want to look in one of the key states in a presidential election?" he said. "There will be a political price to pay for them. That's not a threat; it's an observation."
Bennett said the idea of redrawing the state's congressional lines was sparked by local Republicans who feel marginalized, not by Bush administration officials, though he added that he "might have said something to Karl Rove" about the plan.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The state board that redrew Ohio's legislative districts for the 2002 election did not discriminate against minorities, three federal judges ruled Friday.
The panel unanimously upheld the plan approved in 2001 by the State Apportionment Board, dominated 4-1 by Republicans.
Legislative Democrats had sued the board, claiming it drew lines that suppressed the election of blacks in Ohio, particularly in four urban counties.
The Democrats failed to prove that the plan was based on race, the judges said. Lloyd Pierre-Louis, who represented the Democrats, said an appeal was likely.
The board, made up of the governor, auditor, secretary of state and a legislator from each party, is required to redraw districts every 10 years based on changes found in the census.
Ohio law states the board must use the U.S. and Ohio constitutions and the federal Voting Rights Act as guidelines.
Republican consultant Scott Borgemenke drew the new lines in consultation with Floyd Johnson, the state redistricting director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"It's hard for one to say we were discriminating against African-Americans when Scott was listening to and taking recommendations from Mr. Johnson," said N. Victor Goodman, the board's attorney.
The House of Representatives is balanced so evenly that it could tilt from Republican to Democratic control this Election Day - potentially affecting what the federal government does on everything from education to taxes to health care.
But southwest Ohio won't be a part of that decision.
That's because - like most Americans - the 1.9 million Ohioans living in the 1st, 2nd, and 8th Districts live where one party's control of the seat is virtually unassailable.
Thanks to the power of incumbency, money, and the once-a-decade remapping of congressional districts, the three Republican incumbents of Southwest Ohio have only tightened their hold.
No one interviewed at Price Hill Chili during a busy lunch hour, not even the few Democrats, could name the Democrat running against local Rep. Steve Chabot. (It's Greg Harris.) And almost no one seemed to mind that Mr. Chabot is essentially guaranteed re-election.
"I want it that way," said Bernie Kersker, 77, a retired Cincinnati policeman. "I'll vote for him until I die."
"When I know Steve is running," said Sue Meagher, 50, of Covedale. "I don't even pay any attention to anyone else."
The story is the same at a VFW hall in New Richmond, where the name of the Democrat challenging Rep. Rob Portman is a mystery to Democrats - even though the same Democrat has run the past two times, Charles Sanders. And no one objects to the fact that Mr. Portman will be re-elected without a challenge.
"There's some things I can change, and some I can't. I'm not a Republican, but I do like Rob Portman," said Diane Zimmerman of New Richmond.
Among Democrats, Republicans, blacks, and whites, support for Mr. Portman is nearly universal: No one talks about the issues, only that Mr. Portman sent a letter congratulating an uncle who turned 100, that he appeared at a village meeting one Saturday and answered every question, and that he is helping make Clermont County a major Underground Railroad tourism site.
"I'm not sure at this basic level it matters whether someone is a Republican or Democrat," said Lorrie Erland, 48, a self-described Democrat who owns the Kristle Kitchen in New Richmond. "It's just if the person has an interest in the community. Rob Portman seems OK, as far as politicians go."
Few races close
Only about 40 races around the country are considered competitive. Because the House has 435 congressional districts, that means only about 1 in 10 Americans have a real say in who will control the House.
Voters in northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana will have some say in dictating who controls the House because their districts feature Democratic incumbents considered in some danger - Kentucky Rep. Ken Lucas and Indiana Rep. Baron Hill.
But voters represented by the three conservative southwest Ohio Republicans - Mr. Chabot, Mr. Portman, and Rep. John Boehner - live in areas that national Democrats have written off. Their districts cover Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and southern Warren counties.
"The kind of democratic responsiveness of our system is undercut by having congressmen who are congressmen for basically as long as they want to be," said Robert Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy. The nonpartisan Maryland-based group is pushing for more competitive races. "Unless they do something completely outrageous, they're likely just to be there."
The lack of real races, in southwest Ohio and most other districts, is happening for three main reasons:
Incumbency. In the past two elections, 98.5 percent of House incumbents were re-elected. Only once since 1954 has the incumbent re-election rate dropped below 90 percent. The free publicity in the press, name recognition and exposure that comes from being a member is almost impossible for a challenger to overcome.
Money. Incumbents can vastly out-raise challengers. In Southwest Ohio, Republican incumbents have 10 times as much money as their challengers. Special-interest groups or anyone with an interest in what's happening in Congress know that incumbents are almost guaranteed re-election, so they invest in the eventual winner.
Redistricting. Because Republicans controlled the state legislature, they redrew local congressional districts to help Republicans. Mr. Chabot's district, once considered a potentially Democratic seat, was expanded west and north into more-Republican turf.
"My hat is off to the Republicans," said redistricting expert Steve Fought, legislative director for Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the Toledo Democrat who represents a district along Lake Erie. "They did a masterful job on redistricting."
Winning recipe: hard work
The Republican incumbents make no apologies for having easy races. They say they win because they work hard, come home every weekend, march in the local parades, get bills passed, and represent their districts.
"It's not for lack of money or resources that no one has been able to beat me in the past," said Mr. Chabot, who survived two elections in which Democrats put him on their hit list: the 1996 race against Mark Longabaugh and the 1998 race against former Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls.
"I think it's been a matter of I'm fairly representative of the district and my constituency," he said. And voters, at least at Price Hill Chili, bear out that contention.
"He's a Western Hills conservative," said Mark Ramstetter, 36, of Delhi Township.
"The West Side is known for being pro-life," as is Mr. Chabot, said Terry McCarthy, 46, of Western Hills. "For West Siders, that's kind of a big thing."
But some Democrats feel disenfranchised living in such Republican districts.
Jeff Hardenbrook had been represented by a Democrat, Rep. Tony Hall, until the new map put him in Mr. Boehner's district.
"I was a nice, quiet, closet Democrat," said Mr. Hardenbrook, 43, of East Dayton. But he was so angry at what he saw as Mr. Boehner's "right wing extremism" that he quit his job running a home for the disabled to run against Mr. Boehner.
Cincinnati's 142,000 black residents feel especially disenfranchised, said state Sen. Mark Mallory, a Democrat who lives in Mr. Chabot's district.
"His voting record on issues of importance to African-Americans is really terrible," said Mr. Mallory, who cited Mr. Chabot's opposition to affirmative action and a vote against a bill that included money for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. (Mr. Chabot said he supports the center, but opposed the bill's overall price tag.)
With the district redrawn to take in part of Butler County and western Hamilton County, an African-American Democrat has virtually no chance of ever winning, Mr. Mallory said.
The problem with uncompetitive races is that issues don't get debated, said Mr. Harris, the Democrat running against Mr. Chabot. It undermines the whole point of elections.
"They're not voting based on competing ideas," Mr. Harris said. "I hope it doesn't sound arrogant of me, but I feel issue by issue, my views are more mainstream than his are."
Mr. Harris has no paid staff, his campaign office is a bedroom in his house and his campaign signs are stored on his front porch.
"We're being outspent 50 to 1. If he wanted to, he could outspend us 100 to 1," Mr. Harris said.
"Probably two-thirds of the people don't even know Chabot has a Democratic opponent," Mr. Harris said. "To run a race without resources, it's just - aaaaggghh."
While Rep. James Traficant's (D-Ohio) legal fate is being debated in a Ohio courtroom, his political fate may already be decided, as Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-Ohio) is set to announce today that he will run against Traficant in the redrawn 17th district.
In another blow to Traficant's chances for re-election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee confirmed Friday that it plans to support Sawyer in a primary against Traficant.
Across the state, in the Dayton-based 3rd district, wealthy newspaper publisher Roy Brown(R) was expected to announce his candidacy today. Rep. Tony Hall(D) is expected to vacate the seat as early as this week for a post at the United Nations.
Sawyer's decision to forgo a statewide race, which he had contemplated after the release of the Republican plan to redraw the state's lines last month, creates a potential face-off with the controversial Traficant, who beat back two strong Democratic rivals in the 2000 primary with 50 percent of the vote in his heavily Democratic, Youngstown-based seat.
Traficant could also opt to run in the 6th district held by Rep. Ted Strickland (D).
It also crystallizes the role that the DCCC will play in this year's intraparty contest, slated to take place May 7.
Before Sawyer's announcement, the House committee said it would not support Traficant's candidacy because of his decision to vote for Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) for Speaker at the start of the 107th Congress. But DCCC officials had not specifically declared whether they would support a Traficant rival, and the Congressman remains convinced that the party committee secretly worked against him in the 2000 primary. "We believe the voters of Ohio will select a real Democrat" in the primary, said DCCC spokeswoman Kim Rubey. "We will wholeheartedly support Congressman Sawyer's efforts to be re-elected," she added.
Traficant is currently defending himself in a federal trial against allegations of racketeering, bribery and accepting illegal gifts, among other charges. The trial, which began last Tuesday, is expected to last six to eight weeks. Traficant spokesman Charlie Straub said Friday that the decisions by Sawyer and the DCCC come as "no surprise."
Sawyer's candidacy "won't have any bearing on what my boss will do," he said.
Straub also emphasized that Traficant has not decided whether he will be running in the 17th district or even if he will be running as a Democrat. "Seventeenth district, 6th district, Democrat, Independent - you name it, it's out there," said Straub about Traficant's thinking. Sawyer explained that his decision to run for re-election came after "a number of good people from the Valley have come to me and asked me to do this."
As recently as last week, Sawyer was still undecided on whether to run for a ninth term in Congress or seek the state treasurer post.
On Jan. 26, Sawyer met with the Ohio Democratic Steering Committee to discuss a statewide bid. He traveled to Pennsylvania to attend the House Democratic retreat the following day. Sawyer spoke at the retreat and received encouragement from a number of colleagues to remain in the House, according to several sources. He also had a private conversation with House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) about the race.
One potential problem for Sawyer in a Democratic primary is his shaky relationship with some labor groups, as a result of his votes in support of NAFTA and fast-track trade-negotiation authority under then President Bill Clinton. But national Democrats are likely to rally around the Congressman as their best chance to get rid of Traficant, a maverick lawmaker who has not been formally kicked out of the Democratic Caucus but who has been denied committee assignments.
Sawyer's path to the Democratic nomination was made easier with the announcement late last week by state Sen. Robert Hagan (D) - a 2000 primary candidate against Traficant - that he would not run in the 17th district. "I have decided to end my campaign for Congress and to seek re-election to the Ohio Senate," Hagan said in a statement released Thursday.
He did not endorse either candidate in his statement, but Sawyer and Hagan met for lunch Friday to discuss the race. Sawyer referred to Hagan as a "good friend."
Hagan emerged as the major alternative to Traficant in the 2000 primary. The "anti-Traficant" vote was split, however, between Hagan and another candidate, Mahoning County Auditor George Tablack. Ultimately, Traficant won the primary with 50 percent of the vote. Hagan took 34 percent and Tablack received 14 percent. Hagan's departure leaves Sawyer as the only candidate officially announced in the 17th district.
The redistricting plan approved by Republicans in control of the state Legislature in January would extend Sawyer's current 14th district eastward into Trumbull and Mahoning counties, both of which are currently represented by Traficant.
Traficant's 17th district was split up, and his seat was decimated in the redistricting process. Parts of his old area make up the new 17th and 6th districts.
"I am the incumbent in this district," Sawyer said when asked about the potential race versus Traficant. "I live in the district."
Traficant currently resides on the northern border of the 6th district. Sawyer expressed a certain sympathy for the embattled lawmaker's current situation.
"Jim and I have always gotten along," he said. "He has always valued the fact that I treat him with respect."
"Nobody can look at his current circumstance and feel good for him."
Meanwhile, in the 3rd district, Hall is all but certain to take a position as ambassador to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture agencies as early as next week, according to sources.
The GOP-controlled redistricting of Ohio last week created political headaches for Democratic Reps. Tony Hall and Tom Sawyer, whom sources said may leave Congress rather than face their toughest races ever.
Following a remap that was designed to target Rep. James Traficant (D), Democrats said Sawyer - who could face a crowded primary in a new 17th district against Traficant and state Sen. Robert Hagan (D), among others - may instead opt to run for state treasurer.
Sawyer's chief of staff, Dan Lucas, said Friday that the eight-term House Democrat intends to discuss a "statewide race" on Saturday with the Ohio Democratic Steering Committee in Columbus. He then plans to travel to Pennsylvania for the House Democratic retreat, where he is expected to discuss his plans with House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (Mo.). "He's keeping all his options open," Lucas said. "It could be a run for governor, it could be treasurer and it could be running against Traficant."
If he chooses to run against Traficant, Sawyer can expect active support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which does not formally recognize Traficant as a Democrat because he backed GOP Rep. Dennis Hastert (Ill.) in the vote for Speaker last year. But Sawyer could face other problems in a Democratic primary, most notably tense relations with some unions following his vote for NAFTA and fast-track trade authority under then President Bill Clinton.
Clear across the Buckeye State, Hall, whose Dayton-based 3rd district gained several Republican counties and at least one top GOP candidate, also refused to commit to a re-election campaign. "[Hall] has stated that he has not ruled out any option," said spokesman Michael Gessel. "He has not indicated that he has a timetable to make a decision," he added.
Hall has been mentioned as a potential appointee to head the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives in the Bush administration, where he would replace John Dilulio. He was a co-sponsor of the original faith-based initiative bill backed by President Bush.
Although Republicans would likely be favored in the 3rd if Hall retires, the GOP is bracing for a competitive and costly primary between former Dayton Mayor Mike Turnerand millionaire publisher Roy Brown.
The White House and the National Republican Congressional Committee have aggressively recruited Turner, sources said, and the NRCC commissioned a poll for him earlier this month. "It was with great pleasure and even greater anticipation that I learned of your plans" to run, NRCC Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) wrote to Turner in a letter dated Jan. 24. "I look forward to campaigning with you in the coming months and eagerly anticipate serving with you in the House."
But Brown, whose father and grandfather served in the House for a combined 44 years, has pledged to devote significant personal resources to the campaign if he runs. He said the idea of a primary with Turner "doesn't bother me in the least."
"The voters should get a good opportunity to weigh in on who the candidate will be," he said, referring to the potential for national Republicans to attempt to handpick the nominee. "I hope there isn't some kind of arrangement made."
According to a GOP source close to Brown, Davis spoke with Brown recently about the race and told him, "Turner is the White House guy, but we're not going to endorse. And if you end up winning the primary, then you are our guy."
Brown's grandfather Clarence Brown Sr. (R) represented the 7th district of Ohio from 1939 to 1965. He was replaced by Brown's father, Clarence "Bud" Brown Jr., who held the seat from 1965 to 1982, when he left for an unsuccessful gubernatorial run. Although Brown currently lives outside the 3rd district, he emphasized that he is looking at houses this weekend and may move into northern Warren County, which is within the seat's new boundaries.
Under the redistricting plan approved by the state's GOP-led Legislature and signed by Gov. Bob Taft (R), Hall's 3rd district is still based in Montgomery County, which is dominated by Dayton, but it adds Clinton and Highland counties, which are Republican territory.
Hall has easily been re-elected since 1978, although Al Gore scored a narrow 50 percent to 47 percent victory in the seat in 2000. Bush would have received 54 percent under the new district lines, according to national Republicans.
Turner, who was elected mayor in 1994 but narrowly lost his bid for a third term last year, said Friday that he decided to enter the race because he has always had an interest in "framing federal policy." Turner spent $425,000 on his most recent mayoral race, which he lost 51 percent to 49 percent.
Pointing to the changes made to the district, Turner said Thursday that the new lines "create an opportunity for voters to take a fresh look at the issues and values that are important to their Congressman."
A third Republican candidate weighing the race, state Rep. Dennis Stapleton, said he has spoken with Turner's camp and "they have told me they believe Hall will take an appointment."
Stapleton hails from Clinton County but currently lives outside the district in Fayette County. He estimated that he has represented 50,000 residents of the new 3rd district during his six years in the state House.
If Hall did accept a post in the administration, he would likely resign his seat, forcing a special election before November. While he expressed concern that a special would favor Turner because of his name recognition advantage in Montgomery County, Stapleton said he doubts that Hall is planning to vacate his seat before his term expires in January.
"This seat is so important to the Democratic Party that they will do everything that they can to make sure Tony Hall can run for the seat," he said. "The pressure on [Hall] to stay is going to be enormous."
DCCC spokeswoman Kim Rubey said, "If [Hall] runs for re-election he will win, and we will do everything we can to ensure that outcome."
In the event that Hall backs out of the race, former Waynesville Mayor Charles Sanders has indicated he will run. And Montgomery County prosecutor Mathias Heck (D) may make a bid as well.
Meanwhile, a spokesman said Traficant, 60, a nine-term Member who faces trial in federal court next Monday, has not decided whether to run against Sawyer in the 17th or against Rep. Ted Strickland (D)in the new 6th. Traficant will be tried on racketeering charges in the centerpiece prosecution of one of the federal government's most extensive corruption probes. He faces 10 felony counts of racketeering, bribery, accepting illegal gifts, obstruction of justice, and tax evasion.
Although the Ohio remap threw some individual Democrats into a tailspin, House Democrats expressed overall satisfaction with a plan they said could have eliminated two or three Democratic House seats.
"Ohio redistricting is another major setback to Republican leaders who had hoped that redistricting could somehow save their thin majority," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost (Texas), chairman of IMPAC 2000, the party's redistricting project. "Ohio's new map may result in a net loss of one vote for Speaker [Dennis] Hastert [R-Ill.]."
Some Republicans were also dismayed. "I think it's fair to say there is some disappointment in the [NRCC], and I think it's also fair to say there is some disappointment at the White House," Ohio GOP Chairman Robert Bennett told the Columbus Dispatch.
Democrats emerged in far better shape than either party expected from congressional redistricting of Ohio, where the Republican Party controls the entire process. Instead of eliminating two or three Democratic districts because of decreased population, the new lines seriously endanger the political future of a renegade Democrat who voted with the GOP in picking Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
While in the minority, Democrats in the Ohio legislature had enough votes to delay the process and force the Republican majority to make substantial compromises to get the legislation passed quickly enough to avoid the embarrassment of having to hold two separate and costly primary elections.
The plan approved by the legislature splits the district represented by Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. (D-Ohio) in two. The plan would force Traficant, who faces federal racketeering charges, to chose between running against Democratic Reps. Ted Strickland or Thomas C. Sawyer.
Traficant voted for Hastert for speaker after the 2000 elections, and was expected to side with the GOP if reelected this year. His likely elimination actually helps Democrats seeking to win control of the House, because Traficant was a vote against them.
The new lines also weaken the base of Democratic voters in the district of Rep. Tony P. Hall (D). Both Republican and Democratic analysts believe Hall would likely win the seat again despite the changed configuration, but if he retires the GOP would have a strong chance of winning.
"What happened was a defeat for the Republicans," crowed Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.), who has been overseeing redistricting strategy on a national basis. "This gives further lie to their claim that they will pick up 10 seats."
A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee contended that the GOP remains on track to emerge from redistricting nationwide with a net gain of eight to 10 seats.
Ohio GOP Chairman Robert T. Bennett served up platefuls of candor in a luncheon yesterday with Statehouse reporters, making it clear he had little appetite for the Republican-drawn congressional redistricting plan signed yesterday by Gov. Bob Taft.
Bennett said he is not alone: "I think it's fair to say there is some disappointment in the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and I think it's also fair to say there is some disappointment at the White House.''
Although the new congressional map ensures safe districts for the current 11 Ohio GOP members of Congress, Bennett said some federal and state Republicans were disappointed that Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, was all but assured of having a favorable re-election district. By threatening to run for governor, Brown successfully "bluffed'' GOP map-drawers into giving him a safe district, he said.
Rather than go after Brown, Republicans eliminated a district now represented by Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., a Youngstown-area Democrat.
Bennett also was disappointed that Brown's new district was not drawn to be competitive for a Republican challenger.
"We had two top-drawer candidates ready to run'' against Brown, he said, naming former state Rep. William G. Batchelder, now a state appeals court judge in Akron, and Ohio Commerce Director Gary C. Suhadolnik.
Bennett was surprised when Ohio House Republicans proposed holding two primary elections this year, which would have cost taxpayers an extra $7.2 million. When that plan met overwhelming public resistance, he said, House Republicans were forced to rely on minority Democrats for redistricting votes. As a result, Democrats were given extraordinary input in the final redistricting map.
"You never empower the minority party when you hold the power unless you have to. In this case, we empowered them right out of the box.''
Asked if legislative Republicans blew the redistricting process, Bennett paused for a long time before saying, "I'm not going to make any comment on that.''
Like a summer squall on Lake Erie, the issue of congressional redistricting has blown through the state legislature, leaving behind only a few ripples of discontent.
With Democratic help, Senate Republicans pushed through a GOP- slanted congressional map and sent it immediately to Gov. Bob Taft, who is expected to sign it soon.
The bill passed 22-11, with Sen. C.J. Prentiss of Cleveland providing the only Democratic vote for the two-thirds majority needed to give the bill emergency status and prevent the possibility of two primary elections. The 21 Republican senators could not declare an emergency by themselves.
House Bill 471 reduces the number of Ohio congressional districts from 19 to 18 and adjusts the population of each to 630,730.
The majority Republicans carved up the district now occupied by Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. and put his suburban Youngstown residence in a sprawling district currently represented by fellow Democrat Ted Strickland of Lucasville.
The action means the redrawn districts will be in place by the Feb. 21 deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions. Without the emergency clause, there would have been a 90-day waiting period, meaning either a late June primary for all candidates or a separate one in August for congressional candidates.
Among the ripples left by passage of the bill:
Certain Democratic congressional representatives might file a lawsuit, saying the Republicans unnecessarily divided communities of interest. Steven Fought, an aide to Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat, said part of Lucas County was put into another district for political reasons.
Black officials might try to develop a lawsuit based on the allegation that Republicans failed to draw "minority influence'' districts where possible in certain urban counties, including Franklin. Such a district is one in which the minority community can influence the outcome of an election.
Sen. Robert F. Hagan, D- Youngstown, a 15-year state lawmaker, said he will run for Congress in the newly created 17th District, whichcontains some of Traficant's territory but was drawn for Democratic Rep. Tom Sawyer of Akron.
Hagan, who lost to Traficant in a primary in 2000, said he is emboldened by endorsements from two local autoworkers unions and the fact that Sawyer's portion of the new district contains only 20 percent of the turnout in a Democratic primary. Sawyer has alienated some organized-labor groups with his votes on free-trade legislation.
Traficant, who officially lives in Strickland's 6th District, could decide to run in the 17th. If so, Hagan said he would reconsider his bid.
"If it's three-way, I will revisit it,'' Hagan said. "I'm not going to be a cutter.''
He referred to the political wisdom that multiple candidates would dilute the anti-Traficant vote, as they did in 2000, when Traficant beat three foes in the Democratic primary.
Senate President Richard Finan, R-Cincinnati, said he expects a lawsuit over the new map.
"It would almost be amazing grace if somebody didn't file a challenge,'' he said.
Fought said Kaptur would talk to other Democratic representatives, including Tony P. Hall of Dayton, who is upset that part of Montgomery County will be moved out of his district and replaced with suburban Republican territory.
Hall's state senator, freshman Tom Roberts of Dayton, wasted no time in his first Senate speech complaining that minorities and Democrats in Dayton are being disenfranchised.
"Twenty percent of the African- American community in the Miami Valley will have no representation,'' he said.
Sen. Doug White, R-Manchester, defended the plan as "constitutionally and lawfully sound.'' He said Republicans took pains to keep communities whole and split only 40 political subdivisions compared with 130 in the current map, drawn in 1992 by Republicans and Democrats, when each party controlled a branch of the legislature.
Finan agreed that the Republicans were careful to follow legal and constitutional requirements in drawing the map. But he conceded, "We wanted to maximize the number of Republican congressmen.''
He said a half-dozen Republican representatives had talked to him about improving their districts.
"I think the great bulk of them are very, very happy with their (new) districts.''