In this week’s edition of PoliticsOhio, Emily McCord speaks to Jessica Werhman. She’s a reporter for the Dayton Daily News and the Columbus Dispatch based in Washington D.C. Wehrman breaks down the redistricting map proposed by Republicans and discusses the implications on the Miami Valley.
Emily McCord: The Republican plan for redistricting in Ohio has a lot of implications for the Miami Valley. They’ve proposed a map and one of the things it does is combine Mike Turner’s 3rd district and Steve Austria’s 7th district into the new 10th district, pitting them against each other in the 2012 election. So, to start, what does this mean for voters here?
Jessica Werhman: Well, first of all, it means you’ll have a primary election and it looks like it has the potential to be bruising. If you look at the new district, the district that’s being proposed, it would take most of Montgomery county, Greene, Fayette, Pickaway and Fairfield. Now Montgomery County is in Mike Turner’s district. Congressman Austria, meanwhile, represents Greene, Fayette, Pickaway, Fairfield and I believe parts of Ross County. A lot of these counties, three of these counties, are currently in Congressman Austria’s district and one of these counties are currently Congressman Turner’s district. Now the implication for the Miami Valley, well, there are a couple of them. First of all, Montgomery County is split more significantly than it has been before. A bigger chunk is going to go to House Speaker John Boehner’s 8th congressional district. The other implication is that, for all intents and purposes, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which used to be represented mostly by Congressman Austria and Congressman Turner with a little sliver for House Speaker John Boehner, it’s going to be represented by two folks, Boehner and whoever wins this district.
EM: So when it comes to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, we’re basically going from three representatives protecting it to two?
JW: Currently, under the map the currently exists, Congressman Austria represents Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Also, he represents Clark County right now, so he’s got the air base there which also has a close relationship with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Congressman Turner also represents the base and Speaker Base represents a small sliver of the base. The overwhelming bulk of the base is represented by Congressman Turner and Congressman Austria. Congressman Boehner is a defender of Wright-Patt, but he, well, first of he’s Speaker of the House. He’s got a pretty big job. Second of all, Congressman or Speaker Boehner is not somebody who is traditionally been an earmark person. When he came into congress, he said ‘if you hired me to get pork for the district, then you’re hiring the wrong guy’. He’s never been somebody who goes for specific local project. It definitely helps to have the Speaker of the House representing. But the bulk effect is that you go from three two.
EM: And I want to talk about Clark County because there’s going to be some changes there, too. What will see under this new proposed plan?
JW: Clark County is a really interesting county to me. Right now, it’s in Congressman Austria’s district, and the whole thing is in Congressman Austria’s district. Under this, it will be split into two. A portion of it, the Springfield area, would be represented by Congressman Jim Jordan of Urbana. He represents currently the 4th congressional district which includes Champaign county, Logan, Shelby, Auglaize county and kind of a swath that goes into north-central Ohio. So, he gets Springfield. But the west, the rural areas, even going to the western part of the county would get Congressman Steve Stivers. He’s a Columbus area congressman. But under this new proposal, this is actually one of the more interesting districts. It’s a reverse “C” shape swath of Ohio. It includes Clark county, Madison county, it goes into part of Franklin, it goes to Highland county, part of Ross county… So you’ve got a congressional district that goes from Clark county over to Athens county. It’s a really interesting shape district when you look at the map. It’s not really easy to say this is a Miami Valley congressional district. Instead you’ve got some of these districts that aren’t particularly regional. Clark county, it’s really hard for me to sort of find a commonality between these two regions. I think the common bond is that the districts are drawn upon partisan lines.
EM: Ohio Democrats are calling foul on this map proposal. What’s the latest?
JW: The Democrats indicated as early as Thursday that they were going to cry foul over this map. On Thursday morning, Ohio Democratic chairman Chris Redfern said that Democrats were prepared to use every tool at their disposal to fight the map. Redfern also indicated during that press briefing that he was weighing his options for legal challenges. They’re looking into a possible referendum campaign. So, while the map passed the house on Thursday and could go to the senate as early as next week, it’s possible we’re going to see some pretty strong opposition to this map.