Lawmaker: New Congressional Districts Down To 2 Plans

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Republican leaders in the Legislature debated two plans on Monday that would make a typically Democratic northern Ohio district competitive for the GOP when lawmakers redraw congressional boundaries, a lawmaker who has seen the maps said.

The lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that the new map was set, except for how to help the GOP in northern Ohio.

One plan has Democratic U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown's northeast Ohio district shifting into Republican-rich suburbs of Cleveland and Akron, while the other would push Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur's district westward from Toledo, the lawmaker said.

New congressional lines for the rest of the state are set -- including dividing Democrat Rep. James Traficant's Youngstown-area district among neighboring territories to cut total districts from 19 to 18 -- the lawmaker said.

Ohio is losing a seat because the state's population didn't grow as much as other states from 1990 to 2000. Since Republicans control the Legislature, which is charged with drawing the new districts, the eliminated district is certain to target a Democrat.

Under the latest versions of the map, Democratic Rep. Tony Hall of Dayton would have more Republicans in his district. But Congress members and legislators are lobbying the GOP for at least one more competitive seat, the lawmaker said.

Republicans now control the congressional delegation 11-8 but want to make it 12-6, Republican leaders have said. Removing Traficant and snagging another Democratic seat would accomplish that.

A bill outlining the new districts likely will be introduced in the Ohio House on Wednesday. The legislation must be passed by the end of the month so candidates can prepare for the Feb. 21 filing deadline for the May 7 primary.

However, the GOP will need Democratic help in passing the new lines as an emergency. Such a provision allows the bill to take effect immediately -- avoiding the 90-day waiting period that would force delaying the congressional primary.

The GOP has majorities in both the House and the Senate, but not the two-thirds needed to pass the bill as an emergency.

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