Democrats say plans to redraw congressional map is a White House ploy

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Top Democratic legislative leaders described plans to change the map of congressional districts as a White House ploy to increase the Republican majority in the U.S. House.
Republicans from northeast Ohio had been shopping around plans to redraw the lines that would target the districts of U.S. Reps. Sherrod Brown of Lorain and Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland, both Democrats.
The U.S. House currently includes 229 Republicans, 205 Democrats and one independent. The Ohio delegation of 18 is made up of 12 Republicans and six Democrats.
"To throw out carefully agreed lines after just eight months? This would be a dangerous new escalation of political partisanship," said state Rep. Chris Redfern of Catawba Island in northern Ohio, the Democratic leader in the House.
State Rep. Jim Trakas, a Cleveland-area Republican, said his plan would have combined Cleveland and Akron into one large barbell-shaped district designed for a Democrat. The outlying suburbs would be combined to create a second Republican seat.
Gov. Bob Taft and Republican legislative leaders indicated Thursday that the idea is unlikely to get much attention at the Ohio Statehouse.
"We were very proud of the fact that our map didn't come under legal challenge. We got it right. Why go back?" said Maggie Mitchell, spokeswoman for Senate President Doug White of Manchester in southwestern Ohio.
GOP House Speaker Larry Householder of Glenford in central Ohio also nixed the plan, which means a bill to redraw the lines will have little chance of passage at the statehouse.
"We're not interested. We're pleased with the lines as they are drawn," said spokesman Dwight Crum.
Orest Holubec, a spokesman for Gov. Bob Taft, said the governor feels that redistricting should be done every 10 years after the official census and not sooner.
"There are a lot of things on the governor's radar screen and this is not one of them," Holubec said.
The talk of redistricting in Ohio attracted attention because of high-profile legislative battles in Texas and Colorado, where Republican majorities have sought to change congressional lines less than two years after they were drawn.
Democrats in those states blamed the push on Rep. Tom DeLay, the U.S. House GOP leader, and presidential adviser Karl Rove. White House spokesman Jim Morrell said the Bush administration does not get involved in state redistricting plans.
Republicans controlled the redrawing of Ohio's congressional districts in January 2002 when the state's delegation shrunk from 19 to 18. The resulting map eliminated one Democratic lawmaker.
Still, some Republicans complained that the GOP didn't gain enough.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)