Only 3 of 16 districts competitive in new map

District covering Greene and Montgomery is among the three.

COLUMBUS — Montgomery and Greene counties are part of something unusual in Ohio — a competitive U.S. House district.

An analysis released Wednesday by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting concluded just three of the 16 new districts in the congressional map created by Republicans and signed into law last week by Republican Gov. John Kasich are competitive.

The analysis, which was done by a group that includes the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio Citizen Action, suggests few races will be closely contested next year. Overall, the map creates 12 districts favoring Republicans and four favoring Democrats, according to the analysis.

Dan Tokaji, a part of the redistricting group and a law professor at Ohio State University, called the map “a disgrace to our democracy.”

Besides not being competitive, the new districts aren’t compact and don’t respect community boundaries, Tokaji said.

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However, Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, who spoke for the map in the Senate, said it was “legal and constitutional.” Faber said the redistricting group has a left-wing bias, which leaders denied.

Under House Bill 369, Montgomery and Greene counties and part of Fayette County form the new 10th District.

Because of slow population growth based on the 2010 Census, Ohio’s U.S. House delegation starting in 2012 shrinks from 18 to 16.

The new map puts U.S. Reps. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, the former Dayton mayor, and Steve Austria, R-Beavercreek, in the 10th District where they’re expected to compete for the Republican nomination.

Dennis Lieberman, a former Montgomery County Democratic chairman, said that a strong candidate with name recognition, particularly in populous Montgomery County, could give Democrats a chance in the district, especially if Austria and Turner damage each other in a primary.

But, he said, the candidate would have to “be able to raise a lot of money.”

It’s not clear who that candidate will be. Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley and A.J. Wagner, a former Montgomery County auditor and Common Pleas judge, have been mentioned in a discussion of possible candidates but both told the Dayton Daily News this week they are not running.

The filing deadline is Dec. 30. Before the map was redrawn, 10 Republicans and Democrats filed in the previous district, though none of the Democrats was a proven vote-getter.

Sharen Swartz Neuhardt of Greene County, who practices law in Dayton and lost to Austria in 2008, said she is “exploring all my options.”

Montgomery County GOP chairman Greg Gantt said he expects an “extremely competitive” race.

The index the redistricting group used to determine competitiveness is based on the results of the 2008 presidential race and the 2010 races for governor, auditor and secretary of state.

Under the group’s criteria, a district is competitive if the political index is less than 55 percent. In the 10th District, the Republican index is 54.18 and the Democratic index 45.82.

Only two other districts had a competitive index under 55 — the 6th District, which runs along Ohio’s eastern border; and the 14th in the state’s northeast corner.

Before the map was redrawn, the 10th district had a Republican index of 57.85 percent.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s 8th District, which includes Butler, Clark, Darke, Miami and Preble counties and part of Mercer County, has a Republican index of 64.3 percent, according to the analysis.

Tokaji said the redistricting campaign group hopes to put a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot putting a citizens’ group, not politicians, in charge of redistricting. The goal would be to draw new districts in 2013 in time for the 2014 election, Tokaji said.

Contact this reporter at (614) 224-1608.

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