If you were looking for an example of a high-competitive swing district, you’d be hard-pressed to find one better than Ohio’s 15th, which currently takes up a good portion of the Columbus area and also happens to be where I live.

In 2006 Mary Jo Kilroy narrowly lost the 15th congressional district to incumbent Deb Pryce by about a thousand votes (out of over 220,000 votes cast). That’s less than .5%. In 2008 Kilroy came back and beat Steve Stivers by about .8%. And in 2010, Stivers rode the wave of Republican turnout to beat Mary Jo by less than 1.5%.

If Ohio’s Republicans get their way, all that will be changing.

That’s because we’re currently at the end of the redistricting process – and Ohio’s Republicans have decided to redraw the lines to give themselves a huge advantage. They have been looking for a way to make the 15th, and other nearby, Republican-leaning districts, less competitive and more GOP-leaning and that’s exactly what they’ve done with their new redistricting plan

As reported in the Dispatch, Republicans have decided to carve out a heavily Democratic district in the heart of Columbus – now called the 3rd District – giving us a solidly Democratic seat but also providing area Republicans with even more secure districts.

The new Columbus district [3rd] was crafted by GOP strategists as part of a maneuver to strengthen the seats held by Republicans Pat Tiberi of Genoa Township, Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington and Bob Gibbs of Lakeville. The new map calls for distribution of solidly Republican precincts to those three incumbents; as a result, most central Ohio Democrats would end up in one district.

As far as the 15th goes, Republicans have found a way to guarantee Steve Stivers keeps the seat: by coming up with a ridiculously-shaped district that the AP’s Julie Carr Smyth describes as “an elongated backward ā€œCā€ shape that stretches over 800 miles and touches parts of 13 counties.”

Using the Plain Dealer’s online tool to map the proposed districts, you can see how messed up the new 15th is (in green) and how the 3rd was carved out specifically to include the most Democratic areas of Central Ohio.

Here’s a close-up of the 3rd. Note the little sliver of the 15th that comes in from the left to grab the downtown banks for Stivers.

As multiple sources have already pointed out, the new 15th district for Stivers, a former banking lobbyist, includes all of the banks in downtown Columbus. But most of the rest of the city will belong to Democrats. The Democratic Party is suing over attempts to include spending in the redistricting bill, which Republicans claim would shield it from referendum. But that hasn’t stopped plenty of central Ohio Democrats from expressing interest in running for the new 3rd.

As most people probably know already, Mary Jo Kilroy announced her intention to run for the new third district a few weeks ago. She was the first one out of the gate and, as a former Representative from the area and a well-known name in Franklin county politics, will likely draw a lot of support for her campaign.

We’ve confirmed that two other well-known names in Ohio politics are also thinking about running.

David Leland spent a short time representing the Columbus-area as a state rep but he’s more well-known for his four terms as Ohio Democratic Party Chair (1995-2002). Leland also served as Finance Chair for Ted Strickland’s 2006 campaign, which raised a record $17 million.

State Representative Ted Celeste’s current Ohio house district (24th) has been merged with Stinziano’s 25th district to form the new 18th district. This puts Celeste in the awkward position of possibly having to fight a primary battle with Stinziano over the house seat or entering the primary race for the new 3rd congressional seat. We’ve heard he’s currently looking at both options.

Both Leland and Celeste have the name recognition and fundraising skills to mount a serious challenge to Kilroy, despite her early entry into the race.

But all three are going to have to contend with a forth likely candidate: Charleta Tavares.

Charleta is currently my State Senator, a former state rep and a former member of the Columbus City Council. She’s also an African-American woman, which would give her an advantage in the new, almost entirely Democratic 3rd District.

There were a lot of rumors circulating that Ohio’s Legislative Black Caucus was going to support the GOP’s redistricting plan because it would open up new opportunities for minority candidates to gain seats in the General Assembly. This is certainly one of the seats they had on their radar. While most of the OLBC’s members didn’t support the redistricting plan, if Tavares does run, their goal might be achieved anyway – at least in the 3rd district.

The new 3rd district is not a majority-minority district, but the minority vote – especially in the primary – will be a big factor. To that end, Tavares would have an advantage if she was the only African-American in the race. But rumors are circulating about Former Ohio House Minority leader Joyce Beatty, Columbus City Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson and Stephanie Hightower, President of the Columbus Urban League, entering the race. And this could have a serious impact on Charleta’s chances in the primary.

At the end of the day, any of the possible candidates listed above will do a much better job representing the values and concerns of our area than Steve Stivers.

Ohio’s new, unfair redistricting plan was put together by Republicans behind closed doors with the sole purpose of strengthening GOP districts. The other result of that plan was to give Democrats almost a guaranteed victory in the new 3rd district.

While I’m disappointed that Ohio’s Republicans have chosen to again play unfairly, there is some small part of me that’s happy knowing I will be represented by a Democrat for the next decade.

 

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