By David Skolnick
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s congressional district would lose some of northern Trumbull County, grow in Mahoning and Summit counties and include a portion of Stark County under a redistricting plan to be unveiled today by Ohio Republicans, according to high-placed GOP sources.
Ohio is losing two of its 18 House seats in the 2012 election because the state’s population didn’t grow as fast as the rest of the nation’s.
The new map, required under federal law to be done every decade based on U.S. Census population numbers, is to be introduced today to the Ohio House State Government and Elections Committee.
The map from Republicans, who control the state’s General Assembly as well as every executive office in Ohio and 13 of the state’s current 18 congressional seats, hasn’t been shared with Democrats.
Of the 16 new districts, Republicans would have the advantage in 11 of them, and Democrats would have four strong seats.
The new map eliminates the current 13th Congressional District, represented by Democrat Betty Sutton of Copley Township in Summit County, and pits Republicans Mike Turner of Centerville in Montgomery County, a four-term incumbent, against Steve Austria of Beavercreek in Greene County, a three-term incumbent.
That’s according to the high-placed Republican sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to discuss the proposal.
Dave Johnson, Columbiana County Republican Party chairman, confirmed the Turner-Austria match-up.
Without a district, Sutton, a three-term incumbent, would have to decide to challenge Ryan, of Niles, D-17th, a five-term incumbent, in an area that includes much of the latter’s current district, or run against U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth, R-16th, a freshman who’s district will see an increase in the number of Republicans and eliminate Canton, a largely Democratic city, the sources said.
Sutton’s hometown would be in Renacci’s new district.
“Ryan would run from a position of strength,” one GOP source said.
Ryan currently represents nearly all of Trumbull and Portage counties, about half of Mahoning, and about one-quarter of Summit County.
The new map would take away a few rural conservative townships in Trumbull County, and add larger amounts of Mahoning and Summit counties as well as western Stark County to his district, the Republican sources said. Those areas are primarily Democratic, the sources said.
Ryan’s office declined to comment until the new map is introduced.
Also, the Republican map combines the Democratic districts of Marcy Kaptur of Toledo and Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland, and creates a Democratic district in Franklin County, primarily Columbus, according to the Republican sources, a Democratic source, and Johnson.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a freshman Republican elected last year to represent the 12-county 6th District, would continue to represent Columbiana County but will lose some of Mahoning County to Ryan, said Johnson and the three other sources.
Bill Johnson couldn’t be reached Monday by The Vindicator to comment.
The 6th District leans slightly Democratic — Johnson was the first Republican elected to the seat since it was redistricted in 2002 — but will now be a Republican district.
Representative Johnson will pick up rural Republican counties including all of Carroll, Harrison and Guernsey as well as portions of Muskingum and Guernsey counties, and lose most of Athens County and possibly other southern counties, the sources say.
“That is such a long, linear district,” Dave Johnson said. “This will bolster his Republican vote count. It’s good news for us. We’re not going to lose someone we just elected and Columbiana will remain the largest county in the district. To the victor goes the spoils.”
The only district that will remain about 50-50 Democratic-Republican is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette of Bainbridge, R-14th, a nine-term incumbent.
LaTourette’s district borders Lake Erie to the north and Pennsylvania to the east so he has to grow south and west. That means picking up rural and suburban voters in Trumbull, Portage, Summit and Cuyahoga counties.
Democrats in the state Legislature aren’t pleased that they won’t see the Republican map until today, and will likely have little time to debate its merits.
State Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, the ranking minority leader of the committee considering the bill today, said Monday that the Republicans, who control the General Assembly, didn’t share the congressional redistricting map with House Democrats despite numerous requests to do so.
The committee could approve it as early as Wednesday and have it on the House floor for a vote the next day, Gerberry said.
“Republicans draw the map, but won’t defend it to the public,” he said. “I find that amazing. If Democrats were in control, we wouldn’t do that.”
Ohio Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, said Democrats haven’t received any information about this map or the ones for new Ohio House and Senate lines from Republicans.
“I’m not surprised, but it’s less than a democratic and fair process,” she said. “All we can do is speculate because we weren’t included. To force a vote without looking at the maps, when there’s nothing pressing besides political gamesmanship, is wrong.”
Cafaro said a Senate vote on the map could come as early as Thursday or as late as November.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who was in Youngstown on Monday, said he expected a partisan plan with each party losing a congressional representative.
“I don’t think you’ll see Republicans take too much advantage,” he said.
Husted sits on the state Apportionment Board that will determine the boundaries for Ohio House and Senate seats. Those lines will be decided after the Legislature approves the congressional district boundaries, he said.