Columbus Media Insider logo

To understand the imminent likely outcome of redistricting and reapportionment of Congressional and state legislative districts in Ohio, one must look at who is calling the shots among Ohio Republicans, who dominate the process. I call it the Republican Rigging Ring.

There has been a distraction of 10 public hearings around the state hosted by the redistricting commission. They were poorly attended by commission members – Gov. Mike DeWine preferred to attend a Cincinnati Bengals practice – because what the public says is of little consequence to the Republicans in charge, who make up five of the seven members.

It was alleged at one of the hearings by none other than former Ohio Democratic Party chair and former unsuccessful candidate for Oho attorney general, David Pepper, that somewhere off the books, either behind closed the doors or on private Zoom meetings, Republicans leaders were meeting to carve up the state to their satisfaction, public be damned.

The Republicans are making diplomatic public statements promising fairness when fairness is the farthest thing from their minds.

What is on their minds?

The Republicans want to keep their stranglehold on Ohio politics and the surest way to do so is by repeating what they did in 2012 – shoving Democratic voters into a few districts that are heavily Democratic and spreading out the Republicans into districts that are Republican by 10 percent or more, so that two-thirds of the districts are Republican-leaning and will remain in GOP hands.

Who is really calling the shots?

The power brokers are the redistricting committee that includes Gov. DeWine, the other GOP statewide officeholders, the 12 GOP Congressmen, the GOP leaders of Ohio Legislature, and the big donors who profit by keeping Republicans in power to continue the never-ending tax cuts and business friendly (read lax) regulations. These folks want to stay in power and to continue pigging out at the public trough.

Trust me. The Republican Rigging Ring could give a rat's ass about fairness in government and about fair districts that accurately represent Ohio's voting preferences, which are about 52 percent GOP and 48 percent Democratic.

They want to stay in power. They know that the public has a short memory – 90 days at the most. (For instance, nobody will be talking about the Afghanistan disaster by Thanksgiving.) The public will have 14 whole months to forget about the Republican Rigging Ring's new, favorable to the GOP, legislative district maps.

What Democrat is going run a campaign for Congress or the State Legislature next year based on the notion that the Republican she is running against jiggered the maps. Her foe almost certainly was not on the seven-member redistricting panel.

Some really good people tried really, really hard by passing two Constitutional amendments last decade full of measures that presumably would force the districting committee and the state legislature to create fair and balanced districts.

Sadly, the Republican Rigging Ring probably will find a way around the regulations to have their way in carving up Ohio – guaranteeing us another decade of economic and political stagnation while our best and brightest flee the state.

New Dispatch Sports Editor Admits Paper Is Passé

In a burst of candor that will not endear him to his masters, new Dispatch sports editor Brian White in the reborn Sunday "Mailbox" column admitted that game results and box scores now missing in the print version would be two-days old and not relevant.

Three readers' unflattering comments were published and centered around the late afternoon deadlines that now render the Dispatch as increasingly worthless as a source of breaking sports news and, for that matter, breaking news.

If three readers' comments were published, there were likely many more complaints received about the Dispatch's carrying two-day-old sports news.

Sports editor White refers readers to for breaking news and for the extensive coverage of OSU football that print readers are used to consuming on Sundays, but no longer will unless the Buckeyes play a noon game that does not go into overtime.

The problem for White and his masters is that there are dozens of online sources of news about the Buckeyes. Hence, the readership of the coverage is likely to be much lower than the print coverage was. Therefore, fewer readers' eyeballs means fewer advertisers will be interested. And the availability of many free sources of Buckeyes' coverage online – such as TV channels 4, 6, 10 and 28's expansive web sites – means fewer folks willing to pay for

Add this all up and extend it to the news and feature content of the print Dispatch and its web cousin, and you have a recipe for financial disaster and oblivion for Ohio's once but no more, "Greatest Home Newspaper."

Architect of Dispatch Disaster Grasps for Straws

Leave it to Dispatch editor Alan Miller to try and put lipstick on the pig he runs.

In what I call his Sunday apology column, Miller claims that "hundreds of new subscribers (are) flocking to the high-school sports page." What he appears to be alluding to is that the Dispatch's This Week community weekly newspapers recently began charging for access to print and online content and that some folks are subscribing in order to read about their kids' scholastic athleticism.

If Miller wanted to provide a full picture of the Dispatch's subscription picture, he would also note that the overall product has been losing subscribers to the tune of 10-20 percent a year for several years, according to its annual October circulation report. The "hundreds" referred to above won't make much of a dent in the thousands of readers lost in the Dispatch's overall decline.

September's Campaign 2022 Scorecard

Columbus activist Morgan Harper has entered the race for the Democratic Party's U.S. Senate nomination. It seems that Harper would be wiser to have another go at U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, whom she lost to in 2020, or to run for a state administrative office than to take on U.S. Rep Tim Ryan, who has been campaigning across the state. He remains my top choice for the job.

I backed State Rep. Emilia Sykes as the Democratic nominee for governor last month but she appears more likely to run for Congress or the State Senate. After his fiery speech to the redistricting committee, I am now backing former ODP chair David Pepper as the best we have for governor. Dr. Amy Acton remains my choice for lieutenant governor.

Though he aspires to be governor, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has not broken through in that race and remains my first choice for attorney general. Though she aspires to be governor, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley has not broken either and still strikes me as the best choice for state auditor. Columbus Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown was unsuccessful in gaining appointment to a county commisioner seat, but the daughter of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown showed class in accepting defeat. I like her for her dad's old job, secretary of state. The aforementioned Morgan Harper would be wise to skip a big loss at the hands of Tim Ryan in the Senate primary and put her dynamic young hat in the infinitely winnable race for state treasurer.

That's four women, three men and one minority. It certainly meets the Dispatch's diversity mandate.


– The Dispatch watered down its commitment to racial justice in its recent editorial extolling the virtues of Columbus. It wanted until paragraph number 25 to mention racial justice.

– I supported a group of neighbors in northern Liberty Township (Delaware County) who passed petitions and got more than enough valid signatures to put a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot regarding the rezoning of a large plot of land into retail and high-density housing in a rural and low-density area. It went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court that valued legal technicalities more than granting citizens the right to vote on important issues, by a 6-1 vote. Only Associate Justice Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, voted with the citizens. The other two Democrats on the court voted against the citizens. On the Delaware County Board of Elections, the two Democratic members voted against the citizens as well, also siding with the developer. Apparently, the four Democrats who said no are not in sync with the Ohio Democratic Party's slogan: People First.

– Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor is running a ghost campaign for Congress in 2022. He announced months ago and is bombarding Democrats' emails with annoying and misleading fund-raising pitches. Ohio is losing one Congressional District, going from 16 down to 15, following the census. Nobody knows in which district the Franklin County Democrat will ultimately reside except the Republican Rigging Ring and they are not talking. It could be Joyce Beatty's. I doubt that O'Connor would enter the race in that case. O'Connor ran a competitive race in losing Ohio 12 in 2018. Despite being unopposed for Recorder in 2020, O'Connor apparently failed to lift a finger to help the party's nominee for Ohio 12, Alaina Shearer, a dynamic female candidate. O'Connor's time would be better spent mending fences with female voters in Ohio 12 rather than scraping for dough for a ghost campaign.

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman,  

(ColumbusMediaInsider, copyright, 2021, John K. Hartman, All Rights Reserved)