THOMAS J. SHEERAN
CLEVELAND — An Ohio congressman facing a primary fight against a fellow Democrat is lobbying for an embattled GOP redistricting plan, asking voters to call state lawmakers on his behalf.
One Democrat targeted by the robo-calls, state Rep. Timothy DeGeeter of Parma, said Wednesday that he received such a call at his home and fewer than a dozen phone calls from residents who contacted him in response to U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s overture.
Kucinich, a former Cleveland mayor and two-time long-shot presidential candidate, thinks he can win in the district proposed by Republicans, a plan that would pit him against U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo.
Kucinich has said that more than half the registered Democrats in the new, GOP-drawn district will come from his old district. The new district would stretch along Lake Erie from Cleveland to Toledo.
Kucinich’s campaign has made automated calls to voters asking them to press state lawmakers to back the GOP plan, which is the subject of an intense review with a Republican goal of avoiding a Democratic-led ballot challenge.
DeGeeter, who is running unopposed for Parma mayor in Tuesday’s election, said he opposed the redistricting plan, in part, because it splits Ohio’s seventh largest city into two districts, with a city-owned golf course straddling the line.
DeGeeter told callers motivated by Kucinich’s appeal that “things are fluid here (in Columbus). Obviously we want to have a Cuyahoga County west side district.”
DeGeeter said he wasn’t bothered by the secondhand lobbying by Kucinich. “That was Congressman Kucinich’s decision. I’ll talk to residents, constituents any time,” he said.
Kucinich hasn’t commented. A message was left Wednesday at his campaign office.
State Sen. Michael Skindell, a Lakewood Democrat, said Kucinich was angling amid the Columbus negotiations for a district concentrated on parts of Cleveland and its western suburbs. Republicans might be willing to deal on that but would oppose creating a fifth safe Democratic seat, Skindell said.
According to The Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/sMVDwi ), Kucinich’s campaign also placed robo-calls targeting Democratic state Reps. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood and Mike Foley of Cleveland. The two, both of whom opposed the GOP plan, said they also got personal calls from Kucinich.
An analysis by voter groups of the map passed in September suggests that 12 of the 16 congressional districts favor Republicans while the other four lean Democratic.
Ohio is losing two congressional districts because of slow population growth; both parties stand to lose one seat each.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern has vowed to move forward with a campaign to get the Republican-favoring map thrown out by voters.