Monday, June 04, 2007

John Boccieri Taking on Ralph UPDATED

By all appearances, the hottest Dem Congressional challenge in 2008 will be State Sen. John Boccieri's run at ancient Congressman Ralph Regula in the Sixteenth. Now Sen. Boccieri has a new website -- with a picture of John and currently popular Gov. Ted Strickland on the front page.

The website rollout is part of Boccieri's campaign kick-off. The "formal" start of the campaign is next week at the closing Hoover plant. From the ebag:

    What: Campaign Kick-Off Event for John Boccieri for Congress

    Who: Senator Boccieri will be joined by Governor Ted Strickland,
    Attorney General Marc Dann, State Treasurer Richard Cordray and other leaders from the Ohio Democratic
    Party, along with representatives of veterans' groups and Ohio's
    labor movement.

    When: 3:00 PM Monday June 11, 2007

    Where: Bitzer Park at the intersection of E, Maple and Main Street
    across from the Hoover Plant at 101 E. Maple in North Canton, OH 44720

    In case of inclement weather, we will meet across the street at:

    IBEW Local Union 1985
    111 South Main Street, North Canton OH 44720
For more about Sen. Boccieri, check out Yellow Dog Sammy's interview.

The rollout has been covered on other blogs, so let's talk about why this is the hot race. Regula has been in office forever, but support for him is more based on inertia than any strong feelings of attachment. He has a solid base among the Timken Republicans in Stark County, but beyond that, he's like the chair belonging to a beloved, deceased grandmother that doesn't fit with the rest of the decor. Making a change just seems wrong somehow, but there will come a time people decide it's time. If 2008 is again a Democratic year, an appealing candidate able to run a muscular campaign will have a real chance at taking the seat.

Add to that the fact that Regula is, let's be blunt about this, old. He's an eighty-two year old man running in a four county district. Boccieri is less than forty and a serviceman. He will be able to out-hustle Regula and take down the districts outside the Congressman's Stark County base.

Then there is the district. While I don't have access to polling data, or even the index in the Almanac of American Politics, I can read a map. In all likelihood, the Fighting Sixteenth is still a Republican leaning district, but after the 2000 redistricting, it is less so and is more independent-minded. Here is a map of the Ohio districts in 2000 with the Sixteenth shaded in red:

And here, from Boccieri's site, is a map of the current district:

Prior to redistricting the district included all of Ashland County, plus Holmes and part of Knox. These are all conservative Republican Counties where the Dem clubs can hold meetings in tool sheds.

Redistricting took half of Ashland and all of Holmes away and gave Regula most of Medina County. This part of Medina Co. as it happens, is where your humble blogger was raised. Even then, much of the population was more suburban, and therefore more pragmatically, economically and moderately Republican than the rural downstate counties. The cities, Wadsworth and Medina have grown as bedroom communities for Summit County and Cleveland respectively. Much of 2002 insurgent candidate Jeff Seeman's surprise showing came from his strong performance in the Medina County precincts.

Even without the more Democratic northern third, Medina County is home to thousands of voters Boccieri will appeal to. And they are well aware that their Congressman is used to representing Canton and doesn't quite get them. Put that with the fact that the bulk of voters in the district are in Stark County which is the ultimate swing county and this district holds the promise for a pick up.

UPDATE: Paul in comments reminds me to attribute the pre-2000 map. It's from this BGSU paper on how Ohio lost a member of Congress. I filled in the 16th District with MS Paint.


Paul Ackerman said...

An excellent report.

Can you tell me where you got your image for the pre-2001 redistricting? I've been meaning to hunt for some of those for congressional and state legislative race info.