Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ohio Redistricting and the Future of Congress

The National Journal is running a story about one of my favorite political junkie parlor games -- Whither Redistricting? I haven't read the premium NatJo piece (because I don't subscribe) but this Openers piece and this by Eric Mansfield each touch on the highlights, particularly the importance the author places on Ohio.

Much of the piece deals with the states like Ohio that are set to lose seats to redder states like Texas and Georgia. In addition, if you go to the front page of the NatJo website and click through the link to the Interactive Graphic, then roll over Ohio you get this speculation about us Buckeyes:

    Elected last November, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland is quite popular. If his job-approval rating remains high, he'll easily win re-election in 2010. Republicans could lose their majorities in the Legislature, although they held them in 2006, a difficult year. The outcome depends on whether Democrats take control of both chambers. If they do, expect partisan redistricting with a vengeance.
While he is right that the Dems can't redistrict with a vengeance without taking the whole General Assembly, I don't think the opposite is true. I don't think the Republicans maintain status quo or saddle the Dems with both seat losses if they don't lose the GA -- which is fortunate because that's unlikely to happen. The snippet on the public section of the site does not discuss the alchemy between Congressional redistricting -- done by the state legislature -- and reapportioning the state legislative districts -- done by the Apportionment Board.

Currently Dems hold a 3-2 advantage on the Apportionment Board with the Governor, Secretary of State and one legislative representative to the Republicans' Auditor plus one legislative rep. While it is true that the Repubs in the GA could screw the Dems out of two U.S. House seats. the Dems on the Apportionment Board could respond in kind and tilt the state legislative map radically toward the Dems.

What we have is actually potentially exciting: a divided government that invites compromise which may lead to more balanced districts. Yes, it may also lead to lots of deal making that protects powerful incumbents and punishes mavericks in both parties, but let me dream a little. I just finished the Potter book and I'm feeling all magical.

Assuming the alignment stays the way it is -- and barring a disaster for one side or the other, it is likely to -- my prediction is that the compromise will zero out one Dem district and one Republican. It may also be balanced geographically, with one gone in Northeast Ohio and one in Southwest.

From there, it's anyone's guess how each party makes the decision about who goes. My guess is that the factors determining who will be the sacrificial lamb will include some mix of the following: 1) Rep. is a weak campainger unlikely to win in a new district, 2) Rep. has a weak legislative record 3) Rep. is unpopular in the state party either because of the the above or
because he/she doesn't dance or both.

Aside from that, I'm less interested in making predictions than hearing what others have to say. Feel free to either speculate on how the decisions are made or who gets cut or both.


From The Heights said...

Honestly Pho, I think state level and regional politics (i.e. Cleveland/NE Ohio) are gradually becoming--and are going to become--more significant than national/federal level politics. Witness the large scale inability on the part of Congress and the White House to actually accomplish anything meaningful for the American people over the course of the past decade. The federal govt. is just too deeply mired in corruption to be of much use to us anymore, it seems.

I get the sense however that with our new Governor that there is a real shift in the way things are operating here in Ohio. At least we can see things taking shape, such as the tuition freeze for colleges, definitely a breath of fresh air for students and their families, as well as real attention being paid to the school funding issue. I think economic development is in the works, but reform of our government and taxing structure must come first, and I think that will take place over the next several years.

As far as I'm concerned, let the GOP have the congressional representation to the federal government that they've already pretty much run into the ground. The Dems can redraw the state legislative districts to take full control over the Statehouse, and then perhaps we can see real progressive action as the importance of state goverment grows.

Paul Ackerman said...

My question is what happens if the Dems control the state house and the GOP control the state senate, which is a clear possibility come 2011.

It is vital that we get control of the state house and hold it through the 2010 cycle.

Up in your neck of the woods, the 42nd district can be won. We have at least 3 seats down here in Central Ohio which we should be able to take, if anyone pays attention (a big if).

There is the 92nd, the 85th, the 63rd which is the only one we lost last time and more.

The state senate is going to be a major challenge in the next two cycles, but we still must make the effort.

It is littered with seats won by the GOP by 60+% in 2004 but when you dig deeper, many of their challengers raised like $3,000 or so. The 20th hast to be a big target this year and we should put effort into the 16th and the 22nd.