Plain Dealer’s Steve Koff Discusses Redistricting Plan

Submitted by Brooke C. Stoddard on Sat, 2011-10-29 16:14.

The Club met on October 21 with the Plain Dealer’s Washington Bureau Chief Steve Koff, who gave a talk about the proposed congressional redistricting plan for Ohio that would take effect in next year’s congressional elections. Steve stood in for Columbus Dispatch Bureau Chief Jack Torry, who could not come.

Steve arrived armed with maps of the present and proposed districts. The proposed plan was created and passed by the Ohio House and Senate, both controlled by the Republicans, and approved by Republican Governor Kasich. Ohio loses two seats in the U. S. House, so its 18 districts shrink to 16 (Ohio gained population since the last census but not so fast as in other states). In the 2010 elections, the Republicans picked up five congressional seats in the state, so they were looking for new boundaries that would help them hold those districts, Steve said. In northern Ohio, the plan in some ways was balanced. Steve said that the Republican proposal more or less leaves Democrat Marcia Fudge’s 11th District a strong minority district, which she should be able to hold, though she may face a challenge from new territory her district has picked up in the Akron area. But Democrats Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur may have to square off in a redrawn district that stretches from Toledo to Cleveland’s west side.

Steve believed that Republican Steve LaTourette was safe in his district stretching from Cleveland’s eastern suburbs to the Pennsylvania line. Much of Democratic Betty Sutton’s district is shifted to Republican Jim Renacci’s district south of Cleveland; Steve sees a Sutton-Renacci matchup as very tough on Sutton. Concerning Democrat Tim Ryan, Steve believes Ryan will be safe in his newly drawn district that still holds Youngstown.

At the time of Steve’s talk, the situation was unsettled. Ohio Democrats did not like the way the districts were drawn and had won the right to take the plan to a referendum, but Steve was not sure of the outcome owing to the time restraints on a referendum and its costs. The primary election for U. S. congressional House candidates and presidential candidates will be held on June 12. The primary for the U. S. Senate candidates will be held on March 6.

The Club is very grateful to Steve Koff for making this presentation. Follow the Plain Dealer online at www.cleveland.com.