Map Going Through More Changes

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Republicans drawing new congressional districts tinkered with their map Thursday in an attempt to secure the Democratic votes needed to keep the May 7 primary election on track.

The House State Government Committee had planned to continue hearings on the plan Thursday morning. The meeting was postponed while the mapmakers took another look at Democratic districts in northwest and northeast Ohio, said Rep. Gary Cates, a West Chester Republican who heads the committee.

Democrats had objected to two last-minute changes in the map.

The district now represented by Democrat Marcy Kaptur would lose a portion of Lucas County to the district represented by Republican Paul Gillmor.

If Democrat Sherrod Brown wins re-election, he would lose part of his home county of Lorain and retain a Republican-rich area of Medina County.

Republicans need help from Democrats if the state is to avoid postponing the congressional primary.

Republicans hold majorities in both houses of the Legislature but do not have the two-thirds majority needed to pass an emergency clause in either chamber. Without the clause, the bill authorizing the new districts would not become law in time for the Feb. 21 filing deadline for the primary.

"I'm a little troubled at some of the last-minute changes. These are significant enough that we ought to take a look at them," Ohio House Minority Leader Dean DePiero, a Parma Democrat, said Wednesday. He said House Democrats likely won't decide until next week whether they will supply the seven necessary votes.

Ohio's delegation would lose the district represented by indicted Democrat James Traficant under the plan proposed Wednesday by majority Republicans in the Legislature.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill next week before it would go to Gov. Bob Taft.

The new map is required to reflect population shifts recorded in the 2000 census. Greater growth in other states cost Ohio one congressional seat. The map puts Traficant of Mahoning County in the same district as fellow Democrat Ted Strickland of Lucasville.

Democrats in Ohio's congressional delegation and the Legislature did virtually no lobbying to keep Traficant, whose record is dotted with votes for Republican bills. Also, Traficant a year ago voted to re-elect Republican Dennis Hastert as House speaker.

Traficant, whose federal bribery trial is scheduled to begin next month, has said he would seek re-election but in a district that resembles the one he currently represents. That would mean his likely opponent would be Democrat Tom Sawyer of Akron, whose new district would include the Youngstown and Warren areas.

A candidate for Congress is not required to live the district in which he's running.

Neither Traficant nor spokesman Charles Straub returned messages seeking comment Wednesday.

Strickland's current district, which sprawls across 14 southern Ohio counties, would be split. Parts of it would go into districts represented by Republicans Robert Ney and Rob Portman, and Democrat Tony Hall.

The new district would stretch from Portsmouth along the Ohio River to southern Mahoning County. Strickland would have to make a 259-mile drive to get from one end of the district to the other, at least a five-hour trip.

The district also would lose the idled uranium plant in Piketon, which is fighting to keep about 400 shipping jobs that could be moved to Kentucky.

Almost certain to face opposition is 12-term Democrat Tony Hall of Dayton. Hall's district was considered so safe that he was the only House incumbent who didn't have a major-party opponent in the 2000 election.

However, the new map adds northern Warren County and Clinton and Highland counties -- all strongly Republican. Republicans considering a run include state Rep. Dennis Stapleton and Roy Brown, the CEO of Brown Publishing Co., whose father and grandfather were members of Congress.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)