By Jim Ellis
April 11, 2022 — When Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Lakeville) announced the suspension of his re-election campaign on Wednesday, it brought some national attention to what has become a Buckeye State redistricting debacle.
Gibbs called out the Ohio State Supreme Court for allowing the replacement congressional district map to languish in political limbo after they rejected the first iteration for excessive political gerrymandering. Though congressional candidate filing was delayed until March 4 from the original Feb. 2 deadline in association with the state’s May 3 primary, the court still took no action toward finalizing a new map. Therefore, candidates were forced to file for districts that may or may not change before election day.
When the Ohio state high court finally informed the Democrat plaintiffs who were challenging the map that the decision regarding the first map constituted the final ruling, the complaint process had to rewind, beginning with a new lawsuit. Now filed, it is apparent that first judicial action on the new challenge is still months away. Therefore, the replacement map appears set for the 2022 elections, at least through the nomination process.
That finally being the case, we can now look at what is becoming a relatively competitive map for the upcoming general election.
Ohio loses a seat, therefore a new congressional map must be in place for the 2022 elections, otherwise all 15 US House contests would be decided on a statewide basis.
The state will now feature two open seats, Gibbs’ 7th CD and the newly configured open 13th District that Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown) is vacating to run for US Senate. Two new House members, Reps. Shontel Brown (D-Warrensville Heights/Cleveland) and Mike Carey (R-Columbus), who were both elected in November 2021 special elections, will stand for full terms this year.
Of the 13 incumbents seeking re-election, two, Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) — the latter being the fourth longest-serving member of the House who was first elected in 1982 — find themselves in toss-up general election situations.
In Rep. Chabot’s 1st District, which covers much of greater Cincinnati, the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the seat as a D+3. Dave’s Redistricting App largely agrees, finding the average Democratic vote over a historical set of races registering 49.91 percent as opposed to 47.93 percent for Republicans. Already, the general election is largely set with Rep. Chabot seeking re-election and the Democrats having a consensus candidate is Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman.
Rep. Kaptur sees the Cleveland portion of her district redacted, meaning her Toledo-anchored seat now features an even mix between Democrats and Republicans. The FiveThirtyEight group rates Kaptur’s new 9th CD at R+6, but Dave’s Redistricting App sees this seat differently. According to the party averages over the course of past political contests, the Democratic vote is 48.77 percent, as compared to a virtually even percentage for Republicans, 48.63.
Rep. Kaptur has no Democratic primary opposition, but four Republicans have filed, two of whom would be significant general election contenders. They are state Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and state Rep. Craig Riedel (R-Defiance). It is likely that one of these two will advance into the general election and make the OH-9 general election campaign one of the most hotly contested in the nation.
Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati), Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), Jim Jordan (R-Urbana), Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green), Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), Warren Davidson (R-Troy), Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), and David Joyce (R-Russell Township) all have safe seats for the autumn elections.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) sees his Dayton-anchored district return in relatively consistent status with his current 10th CD. The FiveThirtyEight number here is R+8 and Dave’s App finds the Republican average to be 52.30 percent as compared to the Democrat’s 45.41 percent. This means the seat is on the edge of competitiveness. For a Republican incumbent in 2022, the early signs suggest a comfortable re-election.
The two special election winners face different re-election situations. Though Rep. Brown’s Cleveland-anchored CD is solidly Democratic (D+54 from FiveThirtyEight), the new incumbent does face a primary re-match with former state senator and Bernie Sanders for President national co-chair, Nina Turner. Brown won the August 2021 special Democratic primary 50.1 – 44.6 percent over Turner, who she began the race as the clear favorite. Rep. Brown is favored for re-nomination, but this race will clearly be a contest on May 3.
Rep. Carey sees only a 30 percent carryover factor from the 15th CD to which he was elected in November when compared to the new 15th where he will seek re-election. The new 15th has more of the city of Columbus and is more Democratic (R+12; 53.39 percent Republican), but these numbers should allow Carey to secure a comfortable re-election later this year. The new congressman’s most likely opponent is Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor (D), who twice challenged Rep. Troy Balderson in the 12th District, running close both times.
Rep. Gibbs’ leaves a new 7th District where former Trump White House aide Max Miller (R) becomes the favorite for both the Republican nomination and general election. In the open 13th CD, a district that rates an R+2 rating from FiveThirtyEight, but a 50.66 – 46.98 percent Democratic advantage according to the Dave’s Redistricting App, we can expect another competitive contest. State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) is unopposed in the Democratic primary, while seven Republicans battle for their party’s nomination, including a former Miss Ohio, Madison Gesiotto Gilbert.
In conclusion, the Ohio delegation will still be heavily Republican, but the Rs do absorb the lost seat with retiring Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’s (R-Rocky River) 16th CD being collapsed. The swing elasticity for this election ranges from a delegation split of 10R-5D to as much as 13R-2D when compared to the current 12R-4D division.