With new maps, statehouse incumbents unchallenged despite redrawn districts

New state legislative maps being used for an Aug. 2 primary election mean major changes for many local voters regarding who may represent them in the Ohio Statehouse.

While the election was pushed back and maps redrawn, the Ohio Secretary of State on Saturday issued a directive saying candidates still had to have filed by Feb. 2 deadline. This means some incumbents are running unopposed despite the boundaries and partisan leans of their districts changing after that.

The district represented by state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp., was redrawn to take in Trotwood and other Democratic areas. This gives Democrats a marginal competitive advantage, according to Dave’s Redistricting, a website that uses historic election results to estimate partisan lean.

But no Democrat will be on the ballot against Plummer this year, since none filed to run for the seat when it had a strong Republican advantage.

Riverside was redistricted from a Republican area to one where Democrats hold the advantage in this year’s race for Ohio House. But if there’s a Democrat or Republican there who wants to run for their party’s nomination against incumbent state Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr., D-Dayton, they won’t get a chance. He is currently unopposed.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, said in a recent interview with the Dayton Daily News that the General Assembly would have to change the filing deadline, which is set in state law.

“I have to carry out the law as it’s written, and that says the candidate petition filing window has closed,” he said.

Candidates can still file to run as an independent candidate in the November general election by 4 p.m. the day before the Aug. 2 primary. This would get them on the November ballot without party affiliation.

Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Owens said the state should reopen the filing for 10 days or so to give candidates a chance to run under the court-imposed maps.

“To say you don’t have time, that’s just ridiculous,” Owens said.

Outside of Montgomery County, all the area House and Senate districts continue to lean strongly in Republican favor, according to Dave’s Redistricting. But voters may find they are represented by different people.

The Ohio Senate district including Springfield now stretches all the way south to Wilmington. But it no longer includes Madison County, where sitting Sen. Bob Hackett, R-London, lives. Hackett isn’t up for re-election this year and said under state law he will continue representing the district he no longer lives in until the next election.

In Butler County, Oxford and Hamilton will be in the same House district. A Republican and Democrat have both filed to run against incumbent Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton. Republican Cody Harper of Hanover Twp. is challenging her in the August primary and Democrat Samuel Lawrence of Oxford in the general election.

The new maps also mean a race in Montgomery County may become more competitive. Incumbent state Rep. Andrea White, R-Kettering, does have a Democratic challenger, Addison Caruso of Oakwood. Neither are facing a primary challenger, but in the general election the district went from leaning Republican by more than 10 percentage points to a toss-up, according to Dave’s Redistricting.

On the Senate side, voters in the northern part of Montgomery County will be represented by someone else. State Sen. Stephen Huffman, R-Tipp City, is running unopposed for a district that now includes areas like Englewood and Vandalia.

Those areas are currently represented by state Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg. Antani’s new district now includes much of Dayton and leans slightly Democratic, but isn’t on the ballot this year.

The maps being used for state House and Senate races this year were ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. But a federal court last week ruled that they had to be used — for this year’s elections only — to break an impasse between the state court and Republican-dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission.

The Secretary of State’s Office released an online tool at findmydistrict.ohiosos.gov allowing people to type in their address and find out which districts they will be voting in this year.

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