Ohio 6th District
In the years after the American Revolution, the Ohio River was one of the great highways west. From Pittsburgh, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio, the river led south and west toward the Mississippi and the great port of New Orleans. Shipping goods downriver by raft was cheaper than sending them over the Appalachian Mountains, and so the Ohio became a great highway of commerce. For hundreds of miles, the Ohio twisted this way and that through rounded-off mountains and rolling hills, land that marked the boundary between post-Revolutionary Virginia and the Northwest Territory, between slaveholding territory and free soil as determined by the Confederation Congress of 1787. Across this boundary, settlers made their way in those years—Yankees in 1788 to Marietta, Ohio’s first town, and, in larger numbers, Virginians. By the late 19th century, the Ohio was an industrial river. Coal was nearby, barge transportation was available and railroads were built in the narrow valleys between the hills. Steel mills went up on the riverfront. This produced prosperity for a while, but it also produced pollution—Steubenville on the Ohio River once had the nation’s dirtiest air—and after the old-line steel industry fell on hard times, the Ohio River was lined with some of the least prosperous parts of America. Even with mandates from the Clean Air Act, the pollution in much of this area from coal-fired power plants remains. Construction was scheduled to start in 2009 on a $2.9 billion clean coal power plant in Meigs County to employ ammonium scrubbers.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Ohio is made up of a string of counties running 325 miles along the Ohio River, plus part of the Mahoning Valley, named after a narrow tributary of the Ohio. In the north, it includes the Youngstown suburbs of Boardman, Canfield and part of Poland in Mahoning County, and East Liverpool and Steubenville on the river. It curves along the lightly populated stretch of the river south from Marietta, past the old industrial town of Ironton and extends to the city limits of Portsmouth, not quite in the Cincinnati metropolitan area. Much of this area is part of poverty-ridden Appalachia. Athens County, with a poverty rate of 32% in 2007, is the state’s poorest county. The steel and coal areas in the north became Democratic during the 1930s and the southern counties started trending Republican in the 1960s. This mix makes for a Democratic-leaning district but the cultural conservatism of this region, much like that of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky across the river, put it narrowly in George W. Bush’s column, by 49% in 2000 and 51% in 2004. In 2008, the close trend continued with John McCain narrowly winning 50%-48%.