Local reps criticize Statehouse redistricting changes: What they’re saying

The Republican proposal for new state House and Senate district maps, adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission as working documents, is expected to be ratified this week. FILE
Caption
The Republican proposal for new state House and Senate district maps, adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission as working documents, is expected to be ratified this week. FILE

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

Rep. Sara Carruthers believes Butler County “shouldn’t have been touched” when the Republican-led Ohio Redistricting Commission proposed major changes to Statehouse district boundaries.

“I’ve never seen a process like that in my life,” said Carruthers of the commission’s 5-2 party-line vote on Sept. 15.

Butler County residents, though, will see significant changes in who represents them in the next two General Assembly sessions. Carruthers said she believes for the first time in 50 years, Fairfield and Hamilton ― two of Butler County’s largest cities — will not be represented by the same state legislator.

“Hamilton and Fairfield should never be split up,” said Carruthers, who will not represent Fairfield if elected to a third term. Her district would be renumbered as No. 44 and spread from Hamilton to Reily Twp. and Oxford.

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Though the split commission vote means the Statehouse map is only good for two General Assemblies starting in 2023, there are three court cases before the Ohio Supreme Court asking to overturn the map.

Carruthers said she has worked to represent Fairfield, including pushing for capital budget funds for the city’s Harbin Park project. The city received $700,000 for the first phase of the park’s redevelopment. The four-phase project will cost the city around $5 million.

“It really frustrates me because I’ve done such good things for Fairfield,” said Carruthers.

Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., also expressed frustration because he also lost jurisdiction. His district is to be renumbered to No. 46 and be limited to eastern Butler County including Madison Twp., Middletown and Liberty Twp. Trenton will be represented by the newly drawn 39th district, which includes Preble County and suburbs west of Dayton.

“You look at Trenton, all that development and industry they’re doing there. You look at Oxford, we’ve had really good conversations with Talawanda schools and the city of Oxford, and Miami University on development,” said Hall. “I was frustrated to see how much we’ve lost.”

While he’s grateful to have acquired new areas to represent, specifically Liberty Twp., he wanted to keep representing Oxford.

“Yes, there are people in Oxford that give us a hard time, but we’ve had town halls up there, we’ve had meetings up there, and I’ve really enjoyed Oxford,” he said.

Part of Hall’s current district makeup, most notably Trenton, will be represented by the newly drawn 39th district, which would be represented by Rep. Rodney Creech, R-West Alexandria, if re-elected next year.

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Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester Twp., said she knew she couldn’t keep her rectangle-shaped district because the district, which includes Liberty and West Chester townships, had seen “the largest growth.” West Chester and Liberty townships and part of Fairfield Twp. had collectively grown by nearly 10,000 over the past decade, according to the U.S. Census.

She didn’t realize she would lose both Liberty and her part of Fairfield Twp. Gross said some people did write in, including Liberty Twp. officials, asking the committee to not change their representative, but “it didn’t change anything.” Her district, renumbered to 45, will represent southern Butler County, from West Chester to Morgan townships.

“I think that’s the hardest thing, for them, they felt unheard,” she said of her constituents. As a freshman lawmaker, Gross said she felt like she didn’t have much say in the process.

If Gross wins re-election in 2022, she said she will be “sad” to lose part of her district but will be “excited to meet my new constituents.”

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