Ohio’s 15th U.S. Congressional District is Picasso-esque in the strangeness of its geometry. It stretches from western Clinton County across the state to eastern Morgan County, but when it gets up north to Franklin County it gets truly weird.
It twists, it turns, it loops back and around, it weaves in and out and around and claws back down just enough to include the home of its elected congressman, U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington. Ohio’s Fighting Fifteenth, taken alone, looks more like something to be found in a Rorschach Test than a map of U.S. Congressional Districts.
Suffice it to say, creativity was not lacking when the U.S. in general and Ohio in particular was carved into these safe-seat enclaves in gerrymandered America.
In an interview Monday, Fairfield County pilot and farmer Scott Wharton, D-Amanda, who hopes to unseat Stivers in November, pointed to a star he had drawn on a map in the southwestern edge of his home county, a star that, as much as any place can, sits in the center of the district.
“That’s where my farm is,” he said. “That’s my hometown. I grew up there. I worked in my father’s hardware store growing up there. I’ve lived there the majority of my life.”
He noted that Stivers was born in Ripley, Ohio, and moved to Upper Arlington a couple years back.
“His district was gerrymandered for him in 2012, and that’s the first time he lived in the district,” he said. “Eleven out of the 12 counties (in the district) are rural. I own and operate a farm. I grew up in a rural community. I attended Ohio University. All of the things this district is interested in, I have in my background. I think I understand the issues a little better than a former banking lobbyist from Upper Arlington.”
Stivers, the former banking lobbyist in question, has a significant fundraising advantage over Wharton, with summer reports showing around $1.2 million in cash-on-hand to Wharton’s just-over $12,000.
But Wharton thinks the people of the 15th deserves a representative who is one of them.
“What it comes down to is, who do you want to represent you? I represent this district. I grew up here. This is my home,” he emphasized. “I don’t believe Mr. Stivers has anything in common with the eleven of twelve rural counties in this district.”
He pointed Stivers’ role on the Financial Services Committee in Congress.
“He’s been in Congress for two terms now. He worked his hardest to get on the finance and banking committee. The reason is that he’s supported by the banking industry and the insurance industry. That doesn’t help locals here,” Wharton said. “If I’m elected, I’d prefer to be on the agriculture, transportation, or veterans committees, because that’s somewhere I think I could help our district.”
Wharton said he doesn’t sleep any better at night knowing his congressman sits on the banking committee.
“It’s more representing of big corporate interests that support him, that put him in office,” he said.