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Steve Austria
Steve Austria

If your first reaction upon seeing the headline is "Who?" I wouldn't blame you. Rep. Steve Austria has been in Congress all of three years, having been first elected in 2008 to current OH-07, a Republican vote sink that links the eastern suburbs of Dayton and southern suburbs of Columbus. A lockstep conservative vote, but predating the tea party movement and not a larger-than-life personality, he hasn't done much to capture anyone's attention (although he did scoop up a desirable slot on Appropriations); in fact, he's probably best known for being the lone Filipino-American in the Republican caucus.

And now he's announcing his departure from the House already, saying he won't run again in 2012. Exciting sex scandal? Rampant corruption? Nope, sorry... it's a much more mundane career-ender: being on the wrong end of redistricting.

“I am not going to run for Congress next term as a result of the redistricting map,’’ said Austria, who represented the 7th district. He said a primary would have been divisive and “pitted friends against friends.’’

Ohio's redistricting, despite the state GOP's best efforts, had to throw one Republican member overboard, and Austria drew the short straw. He was drawn into the new 10th, along with fellow Republican Rep. Mike Turner. While the new 10th retains something of the same shape as the old 7th, the bulk of the district's population is now in the Dayton area, where current OH-03 Rep. Turner has been in the House longer (since 2002) and was mayor of Dayton before that. Indeed, Turner currently represents 62% of the new 10th, while Austria represents just 26%. (Other alternatives, neither good for Austria, would involve carpetbagging into another Columbus-area seat, either the one held by GOPer Steve Stivers or the new 3rd, an open Dem vote sink.)

With Turner seeming to hold an edge in establishment support and money, it was going to be a fight tilted somewhat against Austria. Still, it seemed like he would at least fight it out, and he may have had an advantage in a GOP primary by being slightly more conservative than Turner. Instead, though, it looks like Austria's off to get an early start on his lobbying career.

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