Allen county is one of the most consistently red counties in Ohio, and always has been – its residents often boast that it was one of just five Ohio counties to vote for Barry Goldwater in 1964. Until recently, its sole local paper, The Lima News, was owned by the libertarian Freedom Communications, whose management promoted a stringently anti-government,- anti-tax message in its news coverage. In some ways, notes Mayor Berger, who grew up a couple of hours east in Mansfield, ''what the rest of the country has been listening to with the rise of the Tea Party, Lima and Allen County have been listening to for more than a half-century.''The political angle is well known here in Ohio, but the lessons we derive from gerrymandering and House Speaker John Boehner's oversight are worth remembering. Reitman's on-the-ground personal reporting elevates the piece considerably. Give the whole thing a read today, though do be warned that it's a sad tale.
Ohio's Fourth District, which includes all of Allen County, is among the most gerry-mandered in the state. Extending from Urbana and Lima in the west all the way to Toledo and the city of Elyria, on the shores of Lake Erie in the northeast, it spans about 4,500 square miles and ''kind of looks like a deformed salamander,'' as one dispirited Lima Democrat tells me, shaking his head with dismay.
Jim Jordan, who has represented Allen County for a total of 14 years – eight in Congress, and another six in the Ohio Senate – received 59 percent of the vote in his 2012 race and, having won close to 70 percent in previous years, is considered a lock for re-election. His latest opponent, Janet Garrett, is a 61-year-old kindergarten teacher from Oberlin, his district's one liberal stronghold, who got herself on the ballot as a write-in candidate after no other Democrat was willing to throw their hat in the ring. Garrett told me this summer that she's running to give her district's voters ''a choice,'' though having raised just $30,000 – $10,000 short of what she'd need to do a mass mailing – it's hard to tell how effective she'll be. Jordan has nearly $1 million cash on hand, much of it coming from corporate interests and deep-pocketed donors like the Koch Brothers, and seems to draw a blank when I mention Garrett, as if he's not even sure who she is.