A Jill post from yesterday points to a Mark Naymik column about the looming primary fight to go after Sen. George Voinovich's soon-to-be vacant seat 2010. The column focuses primarily on the possible battle between Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner for the nomination. One objection to Brunner's nomination is the fact that leaving her position makes it harder for the Democrats to hold on to the office, also up in 2010, and that she sits on the apportionment board. This is, for example, why I don't want her to run, even though the prospect of listening to Lee Fisher stump speeches for an election cycle is horrifying.
In response to the apportionment board argument, Naymik notes the following:
- [Brunner] and others correctly argue that the power of the Apportionment Board may be overstated - as evidenced by Democrats' success last year in House districts last drawn by Republicans. (Democrats, though, performed badly in Ohio Senate districts.)
Also, if Democrats deliver on their promise to pass election reforms, those reforms are likely to include changing the apportionment process. Computers can redraw the lines without partisan politics, eliminating the need for board seats.
Since 2000 Ohio has been close to 50/50 in Presidential elections. In that same time span, until this past election, the Ohio House and Senate have each been split around one-third Dem to two-thirds R. That's in large part thanks to the very effective map drawing the Apportionment Board did when it was composed of one Dem and four Republicans.
Moreover, the just-wait-till-last-year argument ignores how the Republicans draw districts -- they concentrate Dems in a few very strongly Dem districts, then draw Republican districts with relatively small but fairly stable margins. Sitting at home I don't have access to PVIs for the Ohio House districts, but a look at the Congressional districts (just scroll down to Ohio. There you go) illustrates the principle. Of the six districts drawn blue only one -- the Sixth, Strickland's old district -- has a PVI under D+6. One is at six, the rest are eight or above. In contrast, only four Republican districts are above +8, two more are R+6 and the six are +4 or lower. Those relatively low R+ PVI districts are the ones in which Dems did well last year, but before that they provided a strong enough margin to maintain Republican hegemony in the Statehouse.
As for the second argument regarding redistricting reform. First off, no one hold their breath. At this point we haven't heard a serious reform proposal since Dems started looking strong again. Moreover, any proposal has to get past the Republican dominated State Senate. At this point Republicans have an incentive to agree to real reform. If they think they will retake the Apportionment Board by winning a vacant Secretary of State position, there is that much less incentive.
Jennifer Brunner needs to honor the promise she made to serve out her term as Secretary of State, plus a second, assuming she is reelected. She needs to do so, not only because she is an effective Secretary during a time when election adminstration is seeing significant upheaval. She also needs to stay because her party needs her to hold onto the seat for reapportionment.