Ohio 7th District
The hills and plains of central Ohio are dotted with towns and small cities that have been manufacturing centers almost since they were settled in the early 19th century, when the dominant technologies were the waterwheel and the open forge. In the decades after, new technologies—the automobile and the airplane—arrived, and the local manufacturing economy, sometimes in uncomfortable fits and starts, adjusted and advanced. This has been the story of Springfield, often studied as a typical American city. In the early 1980s, International Harvester, the city’s largest employer, went bankrupt, downsized dramatically and was renamed Navistar. In 1996, the company cut 3,000 jobs from its Springfield plant, and by 2002, the workforce had been pared down to 2,800. Navistar was on the rebound in 2008 after securing a deal to assemble General Motors medium-duty trucks, but that prospect went up in smoke in 2009 when GM went bankrupt. But amid these highly publicized and visible examples of capitalism’s creative destruction, there have been less-noticed examples of its creativity. Small manufacturing businesses have grown up in empty factory spaces, and service employment has grown.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 7th Congressional District of Ohio is made up of a portion of south-central Ohio. It includes Springfield and Clark County and, just to the south, the growing Greene County suburbs of Dayton around Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Although Wright Patterson gained a few hundred jobs in the base-closing review of 2005, Springfield’s Air National Guard station lost its F-16 training unit. Other population centers are in Fairfield County, southeast of Columbus, and a slice of Franklin County, including part of the east side of Columbus. Fairfield is home to the 5,200-seat World Harvest Church, where politically active Pastor Rod Parsley is one of the nation’s leading evangelicals and a prominent opponent of abortion rights and gay marriage. Early in the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican candidate John McCain referred to Parsley as “a spiritual guide,” but he denounced the pastor’s endorsement of his candidacy after Parsley made derogatory comments about the religion of Islam.
Farther east in Perry County, coal mining has revived as the price of oil skyrocketed. The district has always been Republican territory. It backed the policies of Ohio Republican President William McKinley (tariff protection, railroad regulation, antitrust suits against monopolies, discouragement of labor unions) and of Republican Gov. James Rhodes (low taxes, promotion of new businesses and jobs). It is culturally conservative as well. In 2008, Republican presidential nominee John McCain won the district, 54% to 45%.