The state House's chief of staff said don't expect drastic changes in the legislative district lines.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Members of the Mahoning Valley's delegation to the state Legislature say they are concerned that a Republican-designed legislative redistricting plan may force them to run against one another next year.
It's a foregone conclusion that the redistricting plan, which will be completed by the state Apportionment Board no later than October, will change the boundaries of a number of Valley legislative districts because the lines are based on population. The new lines would take effect with the 2003 legislative session.
The five-person Apportionment Board, which has four Republican members, has to draw each House district with 114,678 people, give or take 5 percent, based on the population of Ohio, evenly divided among the 99 districts. Also, each of the 33 Senate districts must have 344,035 people each, give or take 5 percent.
Big changes not expected: Brett Buerck, the House's chief of staff, said he doesn't expect drastic changes in the state's legislative district lines.
"I don't think much will change; perhaps a bit on the district's margins, but nothing significant," he said. "The lines that are in place were ruled constitutional in the early '90s and it's not in our interest to change them. If you made drastic changes, they wouldn't hold up in court."
State Rep. Sylvester Patton of Youngstown, D-64th, has the smallest legislative district in Ohio with 92,352 residents, a 13-percent decline from the 1990 census.
Needs people: Patton's district needs about 20,000 additional people and they will probably come from Youngstown's 4th Ward, Boardman and/or Poland, which are currently represented by state Rep. Kenneth A. Carano of Austintown, D-65th.
But Carano's district doesn't have any residents to give up, so to make up for that loss to Patton, he would have to take people from other districts, most likely the one represented by state Rep. John Boccieri of New Middletown, D-57th.
The most logical part of Boccieri's district for Carano to take is in Mahoning County, including Canfield and New Middletown. Boccieri's district, which can give up about 6,000 residents and still be at the 114,678 state average, may need to add a section of Stark or Portage counties if too many residents are taken from it.
Future opponents? "It could mean Ken and I would have to run against each other next year," Boccieri said. "The Republicans may redistrict me right out of my district."
Carano said there is still time for a decision to be made, but he also believes a race against Boccieri is a strong possibility.
Also, residents of northern Trumbull County shouldn't get too attached to state Rep. Timothy Grendell of Chesterland, R-68th.
In all likelihood, Grendell will no longer represent the district once the redistricting plan takes effect. Grendell, who also represents Geauga County, is expected to continue to represent that district and add a portion of Lake County to his district.
The northern part of Trumbull will probably be split between state Reps. Daniel J. Sferra of Warren, D-66th, and Anthony A. Latell Jr. of Girard, D-67th. Latell said the two could also end up with a bit of Ashtabula County.
Sferra said he needs an additional 10,000 people in his district and logic would dictate that they would come from the northern part of the county.
But Craig Bonar, Trumbull County Republican chairman, said Sferra and Latell would face each other next year if he gets his way. Bonar has recommended to the state Republican Party that Trumbull be split in two -- an urban district including Warren, Niles, Girard, Weathersfield, McDonald and Lordstown, which would force Sferra and Latell to run against each other, and a suburban district.
Not concerned: State Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, said he is not concerned that Republicans will redraw the legislative districts in an effort to hurt Democrats. That's because Republicans control the House 59-40 and the Senate 21-12.
"I don't think it will mean much of anything," he said. "I don't think it will change too much. My guess is in the end, they'll do very little to the districts. They're already drawn to benefit Republicans."
Hagan said that when the redistricting plan is finalized, he may no longer represent Carroll County, but if that is the case, he will pick up a portion of Portage County. That poses the issue of Republicans' drawing a district that would include Hagan and Senate Minority Leader Leigh E. Herington of Kent.
"That is a possibility, but I don't think it will happen," Hagan said. "It would be very significant to him. It would almost be a slam-dunk [victory] for me because a major part of the district will come from Mahoning County."
Northern counties: Expect changes to the Senate's 32nd District, represented by state Sen. Timothy J. Ryan, a Warren Democrat, which includes Trumbull and Geauga counties, and the 18th District, represented by state Sen. Robert A. Gardner, a Madison Republican, which includes Ashtabula and Lake counties.
Republicans are expected to put Trumbull and Ashtabula into one district and Geauga and Lake into another.
"That's what I've been hearing," Ryan said. "This way there would be one strong Democratic district and one strong Republican district."
Columbiana County's House district, represented by state Rep. Charles Blasdel, an East Liverpool Republican, will probably not be touched, Buerck said. Also, state Sen. Gregory L. DiDonato of New Philadelphia, D-30th, said he expects to continue representing Columbiana County after redistricting.