Perhaps the Republican Party will rethink a redistricting plan because of this announcement, a state representative said.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A potential high-stakes political campaign is brewing between two of the fastest-rising freshman state representatives in Ohio.
State Rep. John Boccieri of New Middletown, D-57th, said he would give strong consideration to running next year against state Rep. Charles Blasdel of East Liverpool, R-3rd, if a Republican-designed state redistricting plan moves him out of his district.
Blasdel is quite popular among local Democratic legislators for his willingness to work with them. Some had privately said before Boccieri's announcement that they were going to encourage potential Democratic challengers to Blasdel not to run against him next year.
Boccieri said his possible challenge to Blasdel could be avoided if New Middletown remains in the 57th legislative district, a highly unlikely scenario.
The Republican-controlled state Apportionment Board, which will redraw Ohio's House and Senate districts, is prepared to move the Mahoning County portion of the 57th District -- including New Middletown and a section of Canfield -- into the 65th District, effective with the 2003 state legislative session. The 65th District is represented by Kenneth A. Carano, an Austintown Democrat. Boccieri said he would not challenge Carano.
A challenge: "This may be a tool, quite frankly, to get in contact with Republican parties and let them know that Charles Blasdel, one of their golden-haired children, could be challenged," Boccieri said.
Blasdel said such strong-arm tactics may backfire on Boccieri.
Also, Blasdel said he has asked Boccieri to give him a reasonable redistricting plan that keeps New Middletown in the 57th District and he would do all he can to convince Republican leaders to adopt it. Boccieri is willing to consider the offer.
"Perhaps there's an opportunity for us to do some negotiating with the Republicans," Boccieri said. "Looking at it politically, I don't think the Republicans would want two incumbents, a Democrat and a Republican, against each other. Maybe they might be a little more sensitive to that."
The Apportionment Board has to draw each House district with about the same number of people in each‚ 114,678, give or take 5 percent, based on Ohio's population evenly divided among the 99 districts. Districts are redrawn every 10 years based on U.S. Census numbers.
Top Republican officials say a portion of the 65th District would be transferred to the 64th District, which includes most of Youngstown and is represented by Sylvester Patton, because the 64th has only 92,352 residents. Then the 65th District will have to draw residents from the 57th District to make up for that loss.
Possibilities: If that were to happen, Boccieri has mentioned moving to a location in the redrawn 57th District, running for state Senate if Robert F. Hagan does not seek re-election next year or even running for Mahoning County commissioner next year. The announcement by Boccieri to possibly move to Columbiana County, which is seven miles from his home, to run for that county's state House seat took Blasdel by surprise.
"I think he could have handled it differently," Blasdel said of Boccieri. "I'm a little disappointed that John didn't give me the common courtesy to let me know about this. Where this is coming from, I don't know. It catches me by surprise, but if John wants to come to Columbiana County, I welcome the challenge."
Before Boccieri's announcement, Anthony Trevena, Boccieri's campaign manager and loser in last year's 3rd Ohio House District Democratic primary, was considered the front runner to challenge Blasdel next year. Boccieri said if he runs against Blasdel, Trevena would step aside.