New House districts to set off primary challenge for open seat

·4 min read

Sep. 19—New legislative districts approved last week for the Ohio House of Representatives make modest changes in how metro Toledo is represented in Columbus, linking Lucas County with rural Hancock County and moving Ottawa Hills into the same state Senate district as Toledo and Oregon.

It will also likely set off an exciting primary contest in May, 2022 for the Democratic nomination to represent the newly drawn 42nd House district that will include parts of South Toledo, West Toledo, and Ottawa Hills.

Democrats have cried foul over the legislative map, which was drawn by a commission with a 5-2 Republican majority, based on GOP control of statewide offices and in the General Assembly.

Republicans say the new maps will produce GOP supermajorities of 62-37 in the House and 23-10 in the Senate, compared to the current 64-35 and 25-8.The map is expected to be challenged in front of the Ohio Supreme Court.

If the newly approved state House and Senate districts survive court scrutiny, they will be used in the next round of elections in 2022.

The revised 42nd House District will likely be an open seat, because that seat's current occupant, Lisa Sobecki (D., Toledo) does not live in the redrawn district and is expected to run instead for the new 40th district, which will include her neighborhood of Point Place. State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon) also lives in the new 40th District but cannot run again due to term limits.

And because the new district has a heavy Democratic voter majority, the political contest is going to take place in the May, 2022 primary.

"I think there's going to be a line out the door," said state Sen. Teresa Fedor (D.,Toledo), a veteran of statehouse politics who has been both a state senator and state representative from Toledo. "It's an open seat and Democratic [majority]," Ms. Fedor said.

District 42 has a 65.2 percent Democratic and 32.1 percent Republican voting record for the previous four years. That's more heavily Democratic than Ms. Sobecki's current district 45, which is 57.7 percent Democratic and 39 percent Republican. What little chance Republicans had in District 45 is reduced even further in new District 42.

The new district contains all of South and southwest Toledo except the Old South End and the River Road corridor. It includes Ottawa Hills, which is the only new piece of territory being added to the Senate district, District 11, which encompasses the three Democratic House districts in Lucas County. The addition of new geographical area was needed because Toledo lost population and needs new population to balance with other Ohio House and Senate districts.

Local political leaders were still learning the new districts' outlines last week and said they were not aware of candidates who would be likely to step up.

Democrats are in fighting mode over the map they contend violates the state Constitution and which they hope will be overturned in court.

As evidence of alleged gerrymandering to maximize Republican power in Columbus, they point to the proposed new District 43, which replaces District 47 now represented by Republican Derek Merrin of Monclova Township.

The new district lines stretch from Sylvania city and Township all the way to the upper tier of townships in Hancock County. The result is a district that is slightly more Democratic, but still with a 55.7-to-41.9 Republican-to-Democratic majority.

State Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D., Toledo) said a more representative district would have been one that keeps similar communities together. Thus, she would have joined parts of Wood County, especially Northwood and Rossford, with a Lucas County district, instead of reaching all the way to heavily rural Hancock County.

"It was not a good-faith effort by the Republicans on that commission," Ms. Hicks-Hudson said. "The voters went to great lengths to create a process, and the Republicans on the commission didn't care."

Currently, Lucas County is represented by four districts: 46, which includes eastern Lucas County, South Toledo, Maumee, and Springfield Township and is now represented by Mr. Sheehy; 44, which includes central Toledo, now represented by Ms. Hicks-Hudson; 45, which includes East Toledo, Point Place, and West Toledo; and 47, which includes western Lucas County and most of Fulton County, and represented by Mr. Merrin. Wood County has its own district, District 3, and is represented by Haraz Ghanbari (R., Perrysburg).

In addition to the new District 42, new District 40 will replace District 46 and will include West Toledo north of Laskey Road, Point Place, Oregon, Jerusalem Township, the River Road corridor of South Toledo, Maumee, and Springfield Township. The new District 41 will replace District 44 and will include most of Central Toledo, but with less of South Toledo, more of West Toledo, and East Toledo. District 43, which replaces Mr. Merrin's District 47, loses Fulton County and covers the west side of Wood County and the northern tier of townships in Hancock County. Mr. Ghanbari's new district, 76, includes eastern Wood County, including Bowling Green and Perrysburg.

First Published September 18, 2021, 9:11am

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