Legislators Come Together, As Will Primaries

Both parties griped about the March primary for state lawmakers and US Senate and the June primary for president and Congress. Republicans blamed Democrats for creating the need for two primaries when they launched a ballot drive to overturn the Republican drawn map of Congressional districts, and Democrats complained their idea to move both primaries to June was rejected by Republicans. The proposal to move all the primaries back to March 6 came from Republican Rep. Matt Huffman of Lima, who helped rush it through a House committee Wednesday afternoon and then to the full House.

HUFFMAN:
"I'm happy to present this to it. Maybe it's a little bit of a Christmas gift to the state of Ohio."

The proposal also replaces the map that Democrats were challenging with their petition drive with a map that makes minor changes in districts in Columbus, Dayton and Toledo. It establishes a December 30 filing deadline for presidential and Congressional primary candidates. And it creates a bipartisan redistricting task force that will make recommendations on changes to the process by next summer. Some Democrats weren't pleased, such as Bob Hagan of Youngstown.

HAGAN:
"The real gift that we gave everybody was a slap in the face of democracy. We should be troubled. We should think about that, we should think about what we're doing - what we've done. Was it fair that some of these districts were carved up in a way that really diluted the opportunity to represent them in Congress?"

But Huffman shot back the often-heard argument that Democrats had a chance to support changes to the redistricting process with a proposal last year from Republican Senator Jon Husted, now the Secretary of State.

HUSTED:
"If those things are not going to go forward, you know, certainly you have an option to do that. But to simply suggest that somehow the blame lies on this side of the aisle is false. And those who are suggesting that know that."

All House Republicans present voted for the proposal. Rep. Lynn Wachtmann of Napoleon said the credit goes to Republican leaders in the House and Senate, and hints that Democrats were ready to deal because their petition drive was going to fail.

WACHTMANN:
"I'm glad that we've finally come to an agreement, or maybe the agreement came about because I would guess they could not get enough signatures on their referendum effort. And I think that's why we've come to an agreement on the map because this map is
essentially - or very similar to what we had before."

But the 21 House Democrats who voted for it said they did so because the new map is an improvement over the old one, and the merging of the primaries prevents the state from spending the 15 million dollars the June vote was estimated to cost. Rep. Matt Szollosi is from the Toledo area.

SZOLLOSI:
"This fight has been about giving Ohioans a stronger voice in the redistricting process and to force a meaningful debate. I am pleased that part of this agreement will include the first steps towards a meaningful bipartisan reform for redistricting in the state of Ohio."

The map and primary bill passed the House overwhelmingly, and then had a similar result in the Senate not long afterward. The Ohio GOP and the Ohio Democratic Party put positive spins on the situation in press releases - both party chairs gave credit to their lawmakers for creating the bipartisan task force and for saving taxpayers the cost of the June primary.

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