Redistricting plan keeps Lawrence County split

Herald-Dispatch, The (Huntington, WV) - Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Herald-Dispatch 

IRONTON -- Lawrence County remains split in two state legislative districts under a new redistricting plan approved by state officials. 

More than 40,000 Lawrence County residents will be represented in the new 93rd District, which also includes Gallia, Jackson and part of Vinton County. State Rep. John Carey, who represents the eastern part of the county, has picked up papers to represent the new district. Since the 40,000 residents in the section of Lawrence County is larger than populations in either Jackson or Gallia counties, candidates for the seat will file with the Lawrence County Board of Elections in Ironton. 

State Rep. Terry Johnson, who currently represents the western part of Lawrence County, will continue to represent Scioto County. However, he picked up all of Adams County. Scioto County is primarily Democratic while Adams County is primarily Republican. Johnson's new district includes Ironton, Coal Grove and Hamilton Township. 

"It's a gerrymandered debacle," Mark McCown, an Ironton lawyer and secretary of the Lawrence County Democratic executive committee, said of the change. 

"They've done it to get both seats," McCown said, referring to the primarily Republican plan led by new Gov. John Kasich. "They've added primarily Republican Adams County to the district to counterbalance Scioto County and Ironton, which are primarily Democratic." 

Even though Lawrence County will have the biggest part of the new 93rd district, McCown doubts the Democrats will have much of a chance of winning that seat in the coming decade. 

Picking up Adams County will make Johnson stronger in that district, said Ray T. "Moose" Dutey, chairman of the Lawrence County Republican executive committee. 

"I think it will help Lawrence County in the long run," Dutey said. Down the line, Lawrence County will have a chance to get the seat currently held by Carey, a former Wellston mayor, Dutey said. 

The change was approved by the Apportionment Board, which includes Kasich along with the state auditor, the secretary of state, the attorney general and one Democratic and one Republican legislator, Carey said. 

The change shouldn't have much of an impact on his race, Carey said. 

"Jackson County, Gallia County and Lawrence County is home territory for me," he said. 

The state still could have two primary elections next year, Carey said. Legislators haven't been able to agree on how to reapportion Ohio's Congressional districts. The state is losing two congressional seats next year. Ohio Democrats have objected to the boundaries drawn by the Republican-dominated legislature and are seeking signatures on a referendum that could be on the ballot a year from now. 

State legislators will meet in Columbus later this week to take up the issue again, Carey said. 

Carey put the chance of a compromise on the Congressional seats at 50-50. 

"It's a mess right now," Carey said. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens." 

Carey, a Republican, was one of only a few Republicans to vote against Senate Bill 5, which put limits on collective bargaining and union rights for state employees. Even though many Republicans, including Kasich, pushed the issue, Carey felt the voters in his district didn't support the issue. 

Lawrence County voters felt much the same as Carey. During the Nov. 8 election, county voters rejected Issue 2 which threw out Senate Bill 5, by a total of 12,842 to 4,386. A majority of voters statewide voted to repeal the law.