Two different large states released preliminary redistricting maps today, and, in a moment of cosmic significance, they're the two states that Dennis Kucinich needs to know about as he plots his next move. One is Ohio, a state where the Republicans control the redistricting trifecta and where their task is trying to lock in their large House gains from the 2010 election amidst the loss of two seats... and where Kucinich has been expecting the evaporation of his district. The other is Washington, a state where redistricting is done by an independent, bipartisan commission, and where there's a surplus of one House seat but no clear place to put it... and where, in an unprecedented bit of carpetbagging, Kucinich has been exploring the idea of running instead.
We've mentioned the Ohio map briefly in our live digest today, but it needs some extensive discussion. Unlike Washington, where today's maps are a starting point, this Ohio map is likely to be close to, if not exactly, what we end up with. The GOP holds the trifecta, and (with Cleveland retaining an African-American majority district) there don't seem to be any Voting Rights Act issues with this map; the only crimes one can see with this map are purely aesthetic in nature. (I'm not sure if this is uglier than the North Carolina layout, but it looks like someone did a lot of Jello shots and then threw up on a map of Ohio.)
In short, this map, as expected, removes one Republican seat and one Democratic seat. It goes about it in a way few observers were predicting, though: it actually creates a new Democratic seat centered in Columbus by packing Columbus instead of cracking it between Steve Stivers' 15th and Pat Tiberi's 12th like it's been for the last decade. (That's pretty smart, because Columbus is where most of the state's growth is, and also is the main Democratic-trending area too, so Republicans decided to confine it instead of continuing to crack it and risk a dummymander.) Former OH-15 Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy
has already spoken for the new blue district (now the 3rd), while Stivers and Tiberi get new suburban/rural districts that went for John McCain in '08 and are much comfier than their current turf.
The flip side is that both Cleveland area Dems who'd been likely to get smooshed together are now on the chopping block: Rep. Betty Sutton finds herself in a GOP-leaning district with Jim Renacci, while Kucinich is in a new horrible-looking OH-09 with fellow veteran progressive Marcy Kaptur, that runs from Toledo to western Cleveland. It's a narrow thread running along the lakefront, in fact using water contiguity to hold the whole thing together in the vicinity of Kings Point. Is this enough for Kucinich to bolt for the Evergreen State? Probably, but maybe not... he retains a fair amount of his existing territory in the white parts of Cleveland and its more Dem-friendly suburbs (like Lakewood), so he might feel his best bet might be to primary Kaptur. (In fact, our twohundertseventy has a diary up already, with some rough numbers, and his diary indicates that the new 9th is 43% old Kucinich turf, 36% Kaptur. The whole diary is worth a read.)
UPDATE: I'd like to see something that's sourced before I get too excited, but the Fix's Aaron Blake says that Kucinich is, in fact, planning to run in Ohio. Maybe he saw twohundertseventy's diary! FURTHER UPDATE: Well, Kucinich sort of says that, although it's hedgy ("I have a chance"), and he doesn't say he'll necessarily run in the 9th. His statement:
"It is an amazing turn of events that the legislature decided not to dismantle the district I represent," Kucinich said in a statement shortly after the state's draft redistricting maps were released. "I have been praying that I could continue to serve my Cleveland-area constituency and it looks like I have a chance. That is all I could have hoped for."
Also, rather than a Bob Gibbs/Bill Johnson duel of freshman Republicans in the state's Appalachian-flavored southeast, instead the two GOPers who got pitted against each other (in what's now called the 10th, although it mostly overlaps with the old OH-03) are Dayton's Mike Turner and Steve Austria, who represents the old 7th (a seat that seems mostly to be Columbus suburbs, although he lives in a suburb of Dayton). So, no, there was none of that promised vengeance against RSC chair Jim Jordan after all. I'm not sure what the low-profile sophomore Austria did to wind up as the odd man out, other than to live too close to Turner. We'll have to see if he has any campaign chops, against the better-established Turner.
The new 7th (Gibbs' district) takes on much of the rural turf of the old 18th, while the 16th, which used to centered on Canton, now has a center of gravity around Akron, which is why Sutton and Renacci find themselves facing off. That sounds like it should be a Dem-friendly district, but the 11th, in an effort to retain its African-American status, now reaches down to take in part of Akron, probably depriving Sutton of much of her base. Sutton could always try running in the 11th against Marcia Fudge or the 13th against Tim Ryan, but neither of those seem to give her a likely path to victory. (Dave Wasserman wonders, and I have to wonder myself, if the GOP spread themselves too thin in the new 16th, which still looks notably bluer than the old version; Sutton, though not known as a good campaigner, may still be able to gut it out in this swingy district.)
The other development that most helps the GOP is in the Cincinnati area, where they seem to have allocated more of the Cincinnati area to the 2nd, taking eastern Hamilton County suburbs away from Steve Chabot in OH-01 while giving him dark-red exburban Warren County... thus making him safer, turning this swing district into one that McCain won. The one unintended consequence in doing so is that will make Jean Schmidt less safe; while she's had a dark-red district this decade, she's needed it, underperforming the district's lean routinely, so she can ill afford taking on more Dem voters.
We'll discuss Washington over the flip...
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