According to new Census data released Tuesday, the state of Ohio stands to lose two of its 18 congressional seats as large numbers of Americans relocate from the north to the rapidly expanding sun belt states. But in addition to giving Ohio Republicans a slight edge in protecting incumbents, the new demographic data may mean an end of the road for Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a 7-term congressman whose liberal district will likely be targeted during redistricting.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Kucinich's 10th congressional district is a prime candidate for elimination because it's located in the Cleveland area, which has lost population in recent years.
"I don't have any control over this process, so I'm not going to worry about it," Kucinich said on Monday.
Fellow Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton's district may also be divided because her district abuts several other Democrat-controlled areas. "Redistricting will play itself out, but I am focused on helping people in Northeast Ohio get back to work, helping small businesses get the capital they need to grow, and working to strengthen American manufacturing and the jobs that go with it," Sutton told the Plain Dealer.
Republicans, who took over five Ohio congressional seats in November's election, want to maximize the number of seats they retain by making the newly won districts more Republican. They must be careful how they divide Democratic districts, because putting Democratic voters into a Republican-held district makes it less Republican. When their new members are sworn in this January, Republicans will control 13 of Ohio's 18 current seats.
"There is only so much territory to divide up, and it has to be done rather precisely," says Steve Fought, a longtime aide to Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. "If they get greedy and try to eliminate more than one Democratic member, they run the risk of failing to bolster the new members who are most vulnerable, like Bill Johnson, Bob Gibbs and Jim Renacci."
Johnson, of Poland, defeated Rep. Charlie Wilson in November. Gibbs, of Lakeville, defeated Rep. Zack Space. Renacci, a former Wadworth mayor, defeated Rep. John Boccieri.
"I got 13 Republican congressmen who will be serving the state in January 2011," says Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine. "From my standpoint, I care about making sure there are 13 Republican-leaning districts for them to serve in during the next election cycle. My job is to maximize Republican congressmen and Republican-held congressional seats."
In the end, Ohio's congressional seats will be designed by its state legislature and its governor.
According to the latest Census Bureau data, the state's population rose by just 1.6 percent over the past decade, marking the nation's fourth slowest state growth rate.