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A history of the Ohio congressional delegation

Published Dec. 10, 2009

By Jonathan Riskind and Jack Torry
The Columbus Dispatch
he Ohio congressional delegation had been a relative sea of tranquility for a decade. Those waters began roil in 2006 and an even bigger wave of change hit in the 2008 election.

The Buckeye State delegation was taken over by Democrats by a 10-8 margin; it had been 11-7 Republican.

The transformation was touched off when three veteran lawmakers, all Republicans, did not run for reelection last year. Two of them were replaced by Democrats.

Taking over the seat held by former GOP Rep. Deborah Pryce of Upper Arlington is Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy, the former Franklin County commissioner. Republican Steve Austria of Beavercreek, a former state senator, won the seat held by former Rep. David L. Hobson of Springfield. Both of those districts are central Ohio area districts - though Hobson's mainly sits in the Springfield-Dayton area west of Columbus. The other main central Ohio lawmaker, Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, won a fifth term in November.

Also retired now is Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Navarre, who represented the Canton area for 18 terms. Democrat John Boccieri of Alliance, a former state senator, won that 16th congressional district seat.

Both Hobson and Regula, as appropriation subcommittee chairmen known as Cardinals while Republicans controlled Congress, wielded considerable clout when it came to obtaining federal funding for Ohio even after their party lost the majority in 2006. Pryce rose to the fourth-ranking House GOP leader before the 2006 election when she nearly lost her seat to Kilroy then.

In the Cincinnati area, longtime GOP Rep. Steve Chabot was defeated by Democrat Steve Driehaus, a former state representative from Cincinnati, completing a big year for Ohio Democrats last year in U.S. House races.

Republican Bob Latta, who represents northwest Ohio's 5th District, won his first full term in November after earlier winning a special election for the unexpired term of longtime lawmaker Paul Gillmor, who died in 2007. Democrat Marcia Fudge won a special election last year to replace the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Cleveland, and the former Warrensville Heights mayor won a full term in November.

Still in his first term in the U.S. Senate is Sherrod Brown, a former House member from Avon who in 2006 defeated two-term GOP Sen. Mike DeWine. Replacing Brown in that northeastern Ohio 13th district was Betty Sutton of Barberton, who won a second term in November. Also easily winning a second term after replacing a longtime House member was Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-St. Clairsville. Wilson won the 6th district seat held by former Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, who won a bid for Ohio governor in 2006

Ohio's other U.S. senator, Republican George V. Voinovich, is up for reelection in 2010. Voinovich, a former two-term Ohio governor, says he intends to run for a third term in the Senate.

Also in 2006, fallout from the scandal surrounding former Rep. Bob Ney helped Democrats pick up a Republican held seat. After the Heath Republican pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, Democrat Zack Space of Dover easily won the eastern Ohio 18th district that had been reliable GOP territory for Ney and President Bush, and Space easily won reelection to a second term in 2008.

The other change that occurred in 2006 followed the retirement of longtime Rep. Michael G. Oxley, R-Findlay. Replacing Oxley in the reliably Republican fourth district to the north of the Columbus area is Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and Jordan, too, had no problem winning a second term last fall.

In 2005, Republican Jean Schmidt of Loveland won a special election to replace longtime Rep. Rob Portman, tabbed U.S. trade representative by Bush. She won a second full term in the fall.

All this upheaval means more than half of Ohio's 18-member delegation has changed since 2005.

There hasn't been change like that among the Ohio delegation since the 1994 and 1996 elections. In the so-called Republican Revolution election of 1994, when the GOP nationally won back a House majority it would hold until last year, Ohio Republicans picked up four seats.

Winning in 1994 were Ney and two other Republicans: Chabot and Steven C. LaTourette of Bainbridge Township near Cleveland. LaTourette is now the last Ohio Republican standing who first won a U.S. House seat in 1994.

Also winning in 1994 was former Rep. Frank Cremeans, R-Gallipolis, now deceased. Cremeans defeated Strickland in 1994, who had just won that seat two years earlier.

But Strickland won the rematch in 1996, holding on to the seat until he ran for governor and successfully handed it off to Wilson. Meanwhile, another Democrat who won his seat in 1996, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Cleveland - defeating Republican Martin Hoke of Cleveland - remains in place.

With Regula's retirement, the mantle of dean of the Ohio delegation falls to Rep. Marcy Kaptur. The Toledo Democrat just won a 14th term in office.

But aside from Kaptur, a high-ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, the Ohio delegation's contingent of Democrats does not have a huge amount of seniority. Also on the appropriations committee is four-term Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles.

Among Ohio Republicans, the most influential member of the delegation is Rep. John A. Boehner of West Chester. Boehner, who won his southwestern Ohio seat in 1990, is the GOP's House minority leader.

But aside from Boehner and LaTourette, the GOP delegation is left relatively junior after the 2008 elections, as well. Tiberi is on the powerful, tax writing House Ways and Means Committee, but is still in just his fifth term; Michael Turner of Dayton just won his fourth terms.

Boehner still badly wants to become House speaker if Republicans win back a majority in 2010, though with Democrats gaining more seats nationally in 2008 that possibility has become more remote. He would be only the third Ohio lawmaker to assume that post. The most famous speaker from Ohio was Nicholas Longworth of Cincinnati, whose portrait Boehner has in the past had hanging in his office. Longworth led the House during the second half of the 1920s. J. Warren Keifer, of the Springfield area, in 1881 won the speaker's term for a term, according to records kept by the House clerk's office.

The Ohio delegation currently stands at 18, a number that has shrunk after each of the last four Census rounds. The most members of the House that Ohio has been allocated is 24, most recently as of 1960. It appears that the state's delegation will shrink again after the 2010 Census, this time perhaps by two, down to 16, according to some estimates.

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