Redistricting poses a tough question for some area lawmakers
By T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
A number of area incumbent lawmakers are pitted against each other in the court redistricting plan released on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
In redistricting the state’s 134 House districts, the court created 15 open seats and 15 seats containing two incumbents.
Six of these pairings are Democrats versus Democrats; six, Republican versus Republican; and three Democrats versus Republicans.
Among area lawmakers, redistricting in the north metro has matched eight incumbent House members against each other.
In redistricted House District 35B, second-term Republican Rep. Peggy Scott of Andover finds herself matched against first-term Republican Rep. Branden Petersen of Andover.
In redistricted House District 38B, Republican third-term Rep. Carol McFarlane of White Bear Lake is matched against Republican House Majority Leader Matt Dean of Dellwood.
In redistricted House District 39B, third-term Republican Rep. Bob Dettmer of Forest Lake is matched against freshman Republican Rep. Bob Barrett of Shafer.
To the south, in redistricted House District 41A, three-term Democrat Rep. Tom Tillberry of Fridley is matched against third-term Democrat Rep. Kate Knuth of New Brighton.
In the Senate, redistricting paired a total of 16 incumbents and created eight open seats.
Incumbent Democrats face Democrats in two matches; Republicans face Republicans in four pairings, with Democrats facing Republicans in two matches.
Four area incumbent Republican state senators find themselves paired in the same district.
In redistricted Senate District 31, first-term Republican Sen. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake has been matched against third-term Republican Sen. Michael Jungbauer of East Bethel.
In redistricted Senate District 39, second-term Republican Sen. Ray Vandeveer of Forest Lake is paired against first-term Republican Sen. Ted Lillie of Lake Elmo.
Area lawmakers were scrutinizing the new redistricting plan this afternoon.
Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, hadn’t gotten beyond the congressional districts in pouring over the plan. As for the congressional districts, Michel thought the court had taken a “status quo” approach — not a lot of change.
Michel, who led redistricting efforts in the Senate, expressed a degree of regret that redistricting in the end was carried out by the court and not the legislature.
“We just had the unveiling,” Michel said.
Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, who chaired the redistricting committee in the House, saw a number of perceived inconsistencies in the court redistricting plan.
For one thing, Anderson thought the court broke its own stated policy in splitting as few communities as possible.
Indeed, the House redistricting plan split some 50 fewer cities than the court plan, Anderson said. “That’s pretty significant,” she said.
In terms of the congressional districts, Anderson thought it strange the court pulled the 4th Congressional District to the east to the
state line, thereby placing the only two Minnesota women in the U.S. House, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and DFL Congresswoman Betty McCollum, in the same district.
In another congressional district decision, Anderson found it odd that the court pulled the city of Coon Rapids into the 3rd Congressional District.
The House, said Anderson, viewed the Mississippi River as a clear and natural barrier and thought Coon Rapids had little in common with communities across the river.
“I was puzzled by that,” Anderson said of the move.
In other area, Anderson said the court plan had twice the number of incumbent pairings that the legislative plan.
Moreover, she thought the population numbers did not bear out the court panel’s matching of Republicans against Republicans in 10 House and Senate seats.
As for shifts in political power, the metro continues to gain political sway over Greater Minnesota simply because rural population is draining away, the metro population growing.
Indeed, a House district in Shakopee grew so much over the last 10 years its population matched that of a Senate district, Anderson explained.
Anderson indicated the frustrating thing about the redistricting process for her was that Democrats seemed unwilling to seriously discuss redistricting.
State DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin indicated support for the court’s plan.
“Today the courts released new maps that will mean changes for many Minnesota voters this fall. By all indications, these maps reflect the panel’s careful and thoughtful approach, which has resulted in a fair outcome,” Martin said.
Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said she is reviewing the court’s plan.
“As I take the time to review the new district maps released today, what I will look for is fairness,” she said.
“The lines should not be skewed to help or hinder a particular party or an incumbent legislator. They should follow clear principles that address equal population, contiguity and compactness, minority representation, and preserving communities of interest,” she said.