Labor groups are placing greater emphasis on state-level elections in Ohio with redistricting looming on the horizon. 

“We’ll be working very hard on the gubernatorial race,” Tim Burga, chief of staff for the AFL-CIO’s Ohio chapter, told The Ballot Box. “There’s added importance to that race, there’s no question about it.”

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) is facing a tough challenge from former Rep. John Kasich (R). 

Burga noted that unions, which boast close to a million members in the Buckeye State, aren’t neglecting the House or Senate races. “We’re going to be working hard on both” federal and state races, he said.

But there’s added significance to the governor’s race because the office plays a powerful role in the redistricting process, which takes place after the 2010 Census is completed in December. Ohio is expected to lose up to two of its 18 seats because of a population decline, which means the governor’s office and the General Assembly will be grappling over how to redraw the state’s House boundaries. 

“That’s why there’s so much added attention,” said Burga.

Labor’s focus on the governor’s race could be an added worry for Senate candidate Lee Fisher (D), who is battling Republican Rob Portman for the state’s open Senate seat. 

The AFL-CIO is set to begin its member education program this week, according to Burga. 

—Updated at 4:25 p.m.