The new Republican congressional district map not only splits Stark County into three districts, it also divides the Timken headquarters complex into two districts. And Republicans acknowledge that they purposely drew the lines to include all three local Timken plants in the congressional district of U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth.
When Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly approved new congressional districts in September, the new map not only split Stark County into three districts, it also established district lines in unexpected places in southwest Canton.
The office of Timken Co. President and CEO James W. Griffith, situated on the northeast corner of Dueber Avenue SW and 19th Street, will be in the 7th Congressional District, which could be represented by Republican Congressman Bob Gibbs of Holmes County.
But when Griffith crosses Dueber to go to Timken’s Harrison steel plant, he’ll enter the 16th Congressional District, which could be represented by Republican Congressman Jim Renacci of Medina County.
And when Griffith crosses Harrison Avenue SW to the west to visit the company’s manufacturing offices, he’ll be back in the 7th District.
The congressional district boundary line splits Timken headquarters going north on Harrison Avenue SW, east on 15th Street SW and south on Dueber. The peninsula-shaped area of the 16th District juts out more than two miles through an uninhabited industrial area into Canton and Canton Township from Perry Township, including not only much of Timken headquarters but also Timken’s Gambrinus plant, where the company makes steel tubing. One of the boundaries goes straight through the Marathon Ashland refinery.
West of the Canton Township/Perry Township line, the 16th District extends south and stops at Faircrest Street SW, incorporating Timken’s Faircrest steel plant.
It’s not a coincidence that three Timken plants, part of Timken headquarters and its Timken technology center in Jackson Township, are in the 16th District.
Ohio House Republican spokesman Mike Dittoe said in an email: “The new map simply reflects the desire to continue to have the Timken facilities, a landmark staple of the 16th Congressional District in Northeast Ohio since at least the 1960s, continue (to) be represented by the 16th Congressional District. ... Rep. Renacci is also a member of the Congressional Steel Caucus; so it also makes sense to have the Timken facilities represented by someone who serves in that caucus.”
Former Stark County Democratic Party Chairman Johnnie Maier criticized what he believes to be gerrymandering.
“Obviously, for them to go and draw the lines as they did, it must be awful important to Congressman Renacci to have that in his district,” said Maier.
“It’s disgusting how they broke up Stark County,” he said. “It’s disgusting how they make a little sliver of a line to make sure they get to a company with a big PAC (Political Action Committee). Come on.”
Dittoe added, “Campaign contributions do not dictate where congressional lines are drawn.”
When asked who requested that the Timken plants be included in the 16th District, Dittoe replied: “Requests such as that never come from one specific person. It is the result of input from local elected officials, business owners and other community leaders.”
Page 2 of 3 - NO KNOWLEDGE
Robert J. Lapp, Timken’s vice president for government affairs, confirmed to Timken spokeswoman Lorrie Crum that Timken executives made no request for the company’s facilities to be included in the 16th District, and that they had no knowledge it would be done.
“We were completely surprised by it,” Crum said in an email. “We did not receive any requests for input on this, nor did we provide any.”
William R. “Tim” Timken Jr., the former ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush and a former Timken CEO, and his nephew, Timken Chairman Ward J. “Tim” Timken Jr., did not return calls seeking comment.
According to the Federal Election Commission, since 2009, local residents with the last name of Timken, Timken executives and their spouses, Timken board members and the Timken Co. Good Government Fund contributed at least $124,400 to Renacci’s campaign fund and the Renacci-Ohio Victory Fund.
In contrast, none of the individuals in this group directly contributed to Gibbs’ campaign, which received $6,000 from the Timken Good Government Fund.
“It’s a pretty good educated guess that the congressman wanted to be connected to the Timken plant and conceivably to the Timken contributions,” said Catherine Turcer, a legislative director for the advocacy group Ohio Citizen Action. “All this stuff happens behind closed doors, so we’re left with guessing.”
She said Republicans a decade ago extended the congressional district of then-U.S. Rep. Dave Hobson from southeastern Franklin County to include the Wright-Patterson Air Force base near Dayton. Speculation was that the base was placed in his district because Hobson, a Republican, sat on a defense appropriations subcommittee.
“Let’s assume Congressman Renacci has received contributions from the Timken family,” said Jim Slagle, manager for the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting. “It would probably be in his interests to have their factory in his district.”
Slagle said Renacci, when advocating for legislation that benefits the Timken Co., would be more influential with colleagues if he says the Timken plants are in his district.
“Maybe it doesn’t hurt anyone” drawing the plants into his district, Slagle said, adding that “it doesn’t look really good.”
“The districts should be drawn in ways that benefit the public as a whole,” he said. “They ought not to be drawn in ways that help play on special relationships that politicians have with campaign contributors.”
Slagle said the district map, approved by the state legislature in September, extends a “peninsula” of the 15th District of U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Columbus, into downtown Columbus, even though most of Columbus is in the 3rd District. He said people have speculated that Republicans did this to include downtown Columbus banks in the 15th District because Stivers is a member of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee.
Page 3 of 3 - Because no one lives in the “Timken peninsula,” according to 2010 Census data, placing it in the 7th or 16th District wouldn’t affect the map’s compliance with the legal requirement that each district have roughly the same number of people.
The lines apparently were drawn to exclude from the 16th District the populated areas east of Dueber, west of Harrison, north of Shepler Church Road SW, west of Gambrinus Avenue SW and north of 23rd Street SW. In the three Canton precincts around the Timken Harrison plant, Renacci got only about 30 percent of the vote in the 2010 election.
Renacci’s office declined to answer questions about whether the Timkens’ support for him was related in any way to the drawing of the district lines, or if Renacci had asked for the Timken plants to be included in his district.
“The process for drawing Ohio’s new congressional districts is handled by the state legislature in Columbus,” according to an emailed statement issued by Renacci’s press secretary, Shawn Ryan. “Any questions about that process should be directed there.”
Similarly, when asked whether the staff of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, was involved in drawing the district lines in Stark County, Boehner’s campaign emailed this statement: “The Speaker has no official role in the redistricting process. Your questions would be best directed at the Legislature, as redistricting is its responsibility.”
Dittoe said Heather Mann, a staffer for Ohio House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, and Ray DiRossi, a member of the state’s Transportation Review Advisory Council, drafted the new congressional districts.
When he was asked earlier this month why the Timken plants were in the 16th, Dittoe said, “I do not believe for a second (it was) anything sinister or conspiratorial.”