PT talked with Congressman Ted Strickland of Ohio's Sixth Congressional District about the forces driving Ohio's proposed redistricting constitutional amendment, its implications for his own district and its chances for approval.
PT: What are the political forces driving the reapportionment amendment?
Strickland: The political forces driving the initiative in Ohio are complex. It's not totally
a good government motivation, but there's some of that. The various state initiatives are a
result of national forces driven by a national movement to have a more competitive form of representation.
Many of those who support the issue in Ohio are driven by a desire to have a more democratic process. Others just see this in raw political terms. Their motivation comes from having an influence over what's happening politically in Ohio.
There's been a convergence of these two forces. There's not a single motive—people are either supporting or opposing this initiative to promote their own political agenda and public policy priorities.
PT: Would you comment on the out-of-state vs. in-state controversy?
Strickland: Funding both for and against these amendments will come from out of state. The Bush administration will put in money. But the amendments are not something that was brought to Ohio. This originated "in-state" as an initiative. Both sides went outside of Ohio to solicit funds. It reflects the role that Ohio is playing in the national political battle that is going on.
PT: Tell us about your own district.
Strickland: I have represented a competitive district for 11 years. I won it in 1992 with 51%, lost it in 1994 by the same percentage, and then won it back in 1996. I have held it since and won by increasing percentages each time, running unopposed in the last election cycle.
The district stretches for about 350 miles and is basically one-county wide. It's a district that I know and like, but the lines were drawn for purely partisan reasons with no thought for the needs of the constituents of that district. Citizens have a right to expect something better.
A good political fight to keep one's seat makes for a better representative. There are people who serve in the House who are not responsive to their constituents, who don't work as hard as they could, because they know they will always be reelected. Non-competitive districts also result in polarizing debate in the legislative body. I think the redistricting amendment is a good idea and will result in better representation.
PT: You said that with today's politics, "a lot of Americans have become disenfranchised."
Strickland: In the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republicans have a majority, which has led the current Republican leadership to shut out dissent. By not allowing Democrats to have any say, nearly 50% of the citizens of the country have their representation ignored. That's not healthy for the democracy of this country.
PT: On what basis do you think Ohio voters will vote for or against the amendment(s)?
Strickland: In my experience, if the issues become confusing, and the voters don't understand them, there's a tendency to vote "no." It's not necessarily based on the merits, but simply because they will have heard conflicting arguments. They will vote for and against based on 30 second ads that are most persuasive.
PT: Do you see Ohio as a national bellwether for other concerns about our political system today?
Strickland: Something quite unique is happening in Ohio. The Ohio 2004 election race could have gone either way, but I think the political climate is significantly different than it was a year ago. Our economy is doing badly, our schools are under funded. Ohio has some serious problems. What happens in Ohio is beginning to happen across the country.
I think that here in in Ohio the spirit of our time is a spirit of change. Is Ohio a bellwether of what's happening nationally? It may be
If you run statewide in Ohio, have to talk about every issue that a presidential candidate does. If you run in Iowa, you talk about corn. As much as any other state, Ohio could be viewed as a bellwether.
PT: Congressman, thank you for your time.
Ted Strickland represents Ohio's Sixth Congressional District. Ted attended Asbury College in Kentucky, receiving a B.A. in history and master of divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. He continued his studies at the University of Kentucky, receiving a doctoral degree in counseling psychology.