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Ohio Remap Creates Multiple Member-vs.-Member Contests

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich indicated he will seek re-election in Ohio following the release of the state’s new Congressional map Tuesday.

Ohio Republicans submitted their official proposal for the state’s 16 House districts. The aggressive new map intends to give Republicans a 12-to-4 advantage in the delegation by moving several Members into the same House districts and creating a new Democratic seat in downtown Columbus.

The Ohio delegation will decrease by two seats in 2012 because the state’s population did not grow as quickly as others. That led many Ohioans, including Kucinich, to postulate that the former Cleveland mayor’s dwindling district was on the chopping block.

“It is an amazing turn of events that the legislature decided not to dismantle the district I represent,” Kucinich said in a Tuesday evening statement. “I have been praying that I could continue to serve my Cleveland-area constituency and it looks like I have a chance. That is all I could have hoped for.”

Kucinich openly considered moving across the country to seek re-election in Washington state, which is gaining a House seat because of a population increase. The Ohio Democrat has visited the Evergreen State several times already this year, speaking to labor organizations and local party officials.

But Kucinich’s cross-country campaign trips won’t be necessary anymore. His statement didn’t specify in which district he will run, but much of his current territory was combined with that of Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) in a new 9th district that follows Lake Erie’s shoreline west from Cleveland to north of Toledo on the Michigan border.

Kucinich could also run in the heavily Democratic Cleveland district intended for Rep. Marcia Fudge (D), but that’s less likely. Her new 11th district includes lakeside downtown and moves south to Summit County.

At least four other Ohio Members were moved into the same district as party colleagues under the new map.

Three-term Rep. Betty Sutton (D) and freshman Rep. Jim Renacci (R) were moved into the GOP-leaning 16th district in northeast Ohio. But Sutton’s hometown is on the border of the Democratic 13th district, so she could opt to face five-term Rep. Tim Ryan (D) there instead.

Sutton didn’t reveal any clues in a Tuesday statement distributed to Ohio news organizations. She said she’ll review the lines before making a decision.

Mapmakers also put five-term Rep. Michael Turner (R) and two-term Rep. Steve Austria (R) into the new 10th district in central Ohio. Turner is the former mayor of Dayton, the district’s largest city, so Republicans believe he has the upper hand in this Member-vs.-Member race.

It’s unusual that Ohio Republicans opted to pit two more senior Members against each other while shoring up the districts of several freshmen. Traditionally, mapmakers target Members with less seniority, although redistricting is a notoriously unpredictable process.

A veteran of close House races, GOP Rep. Steve Stivers’ new 15th district sprawls from counties west of Columbus though southeast Ohio almost to the state’s border with West Virginia. The Z-shaped district is ungainly but much more Republican than his previously competitive seat.

Republicans maintained the GOP voting advantages in districts held by freshman Reps. Bob Gibbs, Bill Johnson and Renacci in eastern Ohio.

The GOP also aided one of Democrats' most frequent targets: Rep. Steve Chabot. The new 1st district now includes Republican-rich Warren County, making it a likely Republican seat instead of a battleground district.

Republicans did not help GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt’s district in southwest Ohio, throwing more Cincinnati Democrats into it. But it could have been worse: Some early reports had indicated Schmidt’s district could get the ax this cycle.

Finally, Republicans drew a new, heavily Democratic House seat in downtown Columbus. There have been many close contests in the current 15th district around west Columbus, the state’s largest city. Republicans decided to save their campaign cash by drawing an urban seat intended for a new Democrat there.

Former Democratic Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, who lost to Stivers last year, told a local newspaper that she’s planning to seek her party’s nomination for that seat. Many more Democrats will likely join her in a crowded primary.

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