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BLOG: A district built for Kaptur -- and Redfern?

Tom Jackson • Jan 9, 2012 at 3:04 PM

The Plain Dealer's Brett Larkin says the latest version of the 9th District was drawn up to help Chris Redfern run for Congress. Redfern says that's false.

Larkin's column in the Sunday Plain Dealer focused on the 9th, where Democrats will choose among Dennis Kucinich, Marcy Kaptur and a lesser-known candidate, Graham Veysey. The district includes much of Erie and Ottawa Counties.

Larkin writes the makeup of the district, under the final version of redistricting, seems to favor Kaptur. That's a point that others at the PD have already made. But Larkin says he has a new scoop: The district was redrawn because Redfern wants the seat:


"Part of what happened is Kucinich got mugged by his own party chair. Four people with firsthand knowledge of what transpired, but who declined to be identified for fear of retribution, fingered Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern as a key proponent of changing the boundaries to benefit Kaptur.

"The change makes it likely that much of Greater Cleveland, the foundation of the state's Democratic base, will be represented in Congress for the next decade by someone who resides in western Ohio.

"Redfern did not return a phone call. But both he and State Rep. Matt Szollosi, the assistant House minority leader, live in Northwest Ohio and are believed to covet Kaptur's seat in Congress when she leaves it. Szollosi voted for the map that shifted votes to Northwest Ohio."

Redfern promptly called me back when I asked for comment.

"He tends to invent things," Redfern said, referring to Larkin. "And in this case, he invented one on Sunday."

“It’s good that he’s retired. I just wish that he’d focus at times on the truth rather than inventing his own version of the facts.”

Larkin is the PD's retired editorial page editor but writes a column that runs every Sunday.

Redfern told me that other press accounts of the final redistricting tell most of the story — the districts were altered to strengthen the influence of black voters and pick up the votes of black Democrats in the Ohio General Assembly so that Republicans could get their districts approved.

If Redfern wants to serve in Congress someday, he's probably helped his cause by filing for the Ohio House. The Catawba Island resident is the only Democrat running for the 89th district that makes up all of Erie and much of Ottawa County, facing little-known Republican Don Janik of Huron. State Rep. Dennis Murray, D-Sandusky, chose not to seek re-election.

Steve Fought, Kaptur's communications director, says that if other politicians are coveting Kaptur's seat, they'll have to wait awhile. Kaptur ranks second in seniority on the House Appropriations Committee among Democrats, putting her close to finally becoming chairman.

"Ohio's never had a chairman of Appropriations," Fought said. "She has no intention of walking away from that opportunity."

Szollosi, also name-checked in Larkins' column, is a member of Fought's fantasy baseball league, so Fought promptly called the lawmaker up to razz him about the column.

One final point from Fought. Referring to Redfern, Fought observed, "He's a pretty young guy, and so is Szollosi."

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