Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Race redrew district, tape says

Speaker's aide says words were 'political hyperbole'

By Spencer Hunt, shunt@enquirer.com
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — A top aide to Republican Speaker Larry Householder was secretly recorded saying the GOP kicked 13,000 African-American voters out of a hotly contested Hamilton County House district to help defeat a Democrat this November.

        Brett Buerck, Mr. Householder's chief of staff, made the statement in February while trying to push newcomer Doug Mink of Sharonville out of the 28th House District Republican primary. Mr. Householder supports Jim Raussen, a Springdale Republican.

   Excerpts from a transcript of a conversation between Brett Buerck, chief of staff to Speaker Larry Householder, and Doug Mink, a Republican candidate in the 28th Ohio House District primary. The endorsed Republican candidate is Jim Raussen, who lost in the 2000 general election. A recording of the conversation was obtained by WCPO-TV (Channel 9) and made available to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
See the full transcript

    Buerck: “The day after the election the speaker sits down with Jim and says, "Jim, this is horrible what happened to you. There were three different circumstances that were outside of your control and you have my personal commitment that in November of 2002, election night two years from now, you will win and you will be the state representative.'”

    Buerck: “Because of the changes that we've made in redistricting to help Jim, we essentially took 13,000 African-Americans out of the Raussen district and put 14,000 Republicans in.”

    Buerck: “You're going to get calls, you've already gotten a call from (U.S. Rep.) Rob Portman. You're going to get calls from all other kinds of Republicans asking you to do the right thing and not get involved with this race. You're going to put yourself out with us. That's not meant to be menacing, that's just a political fact of life.”

    Buerck: “If you can appreciate that and if you can take a bullet for the team, which I understand that you will, then come be a part of Team Householder and let us know what other thing is there out there that you want to accomplish. How can we get you to meet your end goal. What is the end game for Doug?”

WCPO I-Team reports: Republican Party Politics
April 28, 2002: Part 1
April 29, 2002: Part 2
        The audiotape was obtained by WCPO-TV (Channel 9), which made a transcript available to The Cincinnati Enquirer.The TV station broadcast portions of the tape Sunday and Monday. (Listen to the tape)

        Mr. Buerck told Mr. Mink that the speaker was determined to elect Mr. Raussen.

        “Because of the changes that we've made in redistricting to help Jim (Raussen), we essentially took 13,000 African-Americans out of the Raussen district and put 14,000 Republicans in,” Mr. Buerck told Mr. Mink.

        Mr. Buerck described how certain Cincinnati African-American precincts didn't supply a single vote for Mr. Raussen in his unsuccessful 2000 campaign against Democrat candidate Wayne Coates in what was then the 32nd House District. Mr. Buerck told Mr. Mink that the speaker was sickened by the loss in 2000.

        Mr. Mink stayed in the race.

        Mr. Buerck's comments about shifting African-American voters could become part of a federal lawsuit filed by Democrats. They argue that a new GOP-drawn map of state legislative districts illegally dilutes African-American voters' power.

        Legislative and Congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years to reflect the current census. The process is extremely political because how a district is drawn can have a big impact on whether a Republican or a Democrat wins.

        Don McTigue, a lawyer representing Ohio Democrats, said he will try to use Mr. Buerck's comments to bolster his case.

        “I think it's a significant piece of evidence,” Mr. McTigue said.

        Mr. Buerck said Monday that he was wrong about the number of African-American voters when talking to Mr. Mink.

        “I guess the best thing I could say is that I'm guilty of political hyperbole,” Mr. Buerck said.

        He said the percentage of minorities who make up the district now and in 1991, when districts were last redrawn, is about 20 percent of the population. There are 111,000 residents in the district.

        Scott Borgemenke, a political consultant who drew the map for majority Republicans, also disputed Mr. Buerck's statements on the recording.

        He said 20.8 percent of the voters in the 32nd House district were minorities in 1991. He compared that to 20.5 percent minority population in the newly drawn and numbered 28th House District.

        Information supplied by Senate Republicans show that parts of Cincinnati, all of Mount Healthy and portions of Springfield Township were removed from the new 28th district and put in adjoining districts.

        They were replaced with Montgomery, Evendale, Reading, Lincoln Heights and different parts of Springfield Township.

        Senate Republicans say that the redistricting shifted 6,600 African-Americans out of the district and brought in 3,900 African-Americans.

        The 28th House district also includes Forest Park, Springdale, Glendale, Woodlawn, Wyoming, Lockland, Reading, Arlington Heights and a tiny part of Fairfield.

        Mr. Householder did not comment for this story. Spokeswoman Jennifer Detwiler, while not commenting about the race statistics, said the speaker supports Mr. Buerck.

        “He thinks it's a fair thing to do to call up a candidate and let them know what they're in for,” she said.

        What effect the tape will have on the 28th House District race is unclear. The primary is Tuesday.

        Mr. Raussen said he, not Mr. Householder, is running his campaign and the tape won't affect the outcome.

        “I think Republican voters are smart enough to differentiate between last-minute tactics and (my) hard work in the district explaining the issues to them,” he said.

        Mr. Mink, a substitute teacher at Reading High School and former aide to Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, said he's not sure who released the recording, but is happy voters got to hear it.

        “I think that's totally unconscionable that someone would do something like that, actually categorically moving a race of people out of a district,” he said. “Cincinnati has enough racial problems. We need to heal problems, not create new ones.”

        Mr. Coates, who has no Democrat primary opponent, said the recording shows Republican party leaders don't care about the district's voters and their concerns.

        “This is all about Larry Householder and how he wants to be the future leader of this state,” he said.

        On the recording, Mr. Buerck says that Mr. Householders wants someday to be governor.


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