Mahoning and Trumbull counties would each be represented by two congressmen under the GOP plan.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- State Republicans will unveil a congressional redistricting plan today that eliminates the 17th District and moves some of its portions to districts that are not contiguous to it.
Under the Republican plan, the Mahoning Valley could be represented by congressmen from such places as Lucasville and Akron.
Republican sources say the plan creates an 11-county river district that goes from Scioto County in the central southern portion of the state northeast along the Ohio River and through at least the eastern portions of Columbiana County and the far eastern portion of Mahoning County, including Poland, which is the home of U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. That plan would pit Traficant against fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland of Lucasville.
The rest of Mahoning County, including Youngstown, and the southern portion of Trumbull County, including Warren, would be moved into a district represented by U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, sources say.
Sawyer would lose a portion of his current district, which includes most of Summit and Portage counties, to a district represented by U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Lorain Democrat, who represents western Trumbull County. Brown's district would include Akron's Republican suburbs. Neither Sawyer's nor Strickland's districts are contiguous to the 17th District.
The congressional plan also calls for northern Trumbull County to be moved into the district represented by U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, a Madison Republican.
Fitting in Columbiana: Sources say Republicans are still determining where to put Columbiana County.
For Strickland to get the far eastern portion of Mahoning, he would have to go through at least a portion of Columbiana. Some Republicans want Strickland to get only the far eastern portion of Columbiana, which would include East Liverpool, a Democratic community, and give the rest of the county to the Republicans.
There is strong support to move most of Columbiana into the district represented by U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, a St. Clairsville Republican, but there is still the possibility of giving it to U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, a Navarre Republican, sources said.
The 17th District, represented by Traficant since 1985, includes Mahoning County, all but 300 voters in Columbiana County, and Trumbull County except its western portion.
Why it's a target: Traficant's district is seen by Republicans as an ideal one to eliminate. Not only would it split one of the most Democratic districts in the state, but if Traficant is convicted on federal charges, including racketeering and bribery, Republicans would not have to deal with eliminating the district of a sitting congressman. Traficant's trial is set for Feb. 4, well before the November general election.
The Republican-controlled state Legislature is obligated to redraw its congressional districts every 10 years based on population figures from the U.S. Census. Ohio is losing one of its 19 congressional districts because the state's population did not keep pace with the rest of the country.
Republican House members were meeting today to hear the redistricting plan.
Republicans now control the congressional delegation 11-8 but want to make it 12-6, Republican leaders have said. Removing Traficant and taking another Democratic seat would accomplish that.