Republicans Monday unveiled new maps for Minnesota's congressional districts that would give their party a political edge and shrink Minnesota Democrats' power in Congress.
The plan would give new Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack a safer district and put Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson in a district that stretches across the top third of the state, from its east to west border. It would also give Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen an edge going into their next reelection fights. The sketch would leave the two Twin Cities congressional districts -- now occupied by Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum -- separate.
While the maps may not become law, they do show the Republican vision for Minnesota's political future: Four strong Republican districts, three strong Democratic ones and a swing district that either party could win.
Republicans say the draft plan is fair.
"This isn't about politics. This is just about the realities of population shifts in the state of Minnesota," said State Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, who leads the state House Redistricting Committee.
Democrats see something trickier at work.
"It's completely political," said Peterson, of Detroit Lakes. His current district runs along the western edge of Minnesota. In the GOP plan, Peterson's district would run from eastern Grand Marais to western Moorhead.
"This guarantees this is going to get settled in the courts," Peterson said.
Courts have settled Minnesota's redistricting fights for decades. Most expect the next plan will be no different. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will sign a redistricting plan into law only if it has strong bipartisan support.
The plan Republicans produced last week does not. A committee in the Republican-led Senate will take up that plan Tuesday, but its results are not expected to differ greatly.
"It looks like to me that [with the exception of DFL Rep. Tim Walz] it is really an incumbent-protection plan," said state Rep. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope. She sits on the Senate's Redistricting Subcommittee.
Walz would pick up some more Republican areas in the plan, but his area would remain competitive. He ousted a Republican from the southern First Congressional District in 2006.
The new map gives both Republican Cravaack and Democrat Peterson fairly safe districts.
The map from House Republicans would shift Cravaack from a northeastern district that covers the Iron Range and Duluth, to a district that would stretch across the middle of the state.
His new plan would put Duluth in Peterson's district.
That would put former state Sen. Tarryl Clark in a tricky spot. Clark, who lives in St. Cloud and ran against Bachmann in 2010, announced Sunday that she had bought a condo in Duluth and planned to run against Cravaack in 2012.
Her current St. Cloud home would sit in the district Republicans drew for Cravaack.
Clark and her spokesman did not respond to a question about where she would live if the draft map became law.
"The lines that matter are the ones between the candidates -- who will stand up for protecting Medicare and Social Security, who will work to create jobs and get our economy moving again," she said in a statement.
Members of Congress on Monday all but acknowledged the map from lawmakers is only a first step.
Doug Sachtleben, spokesman for Sixth District Rep. Bachmann, said the three-term legislator was looking forward to how the process plays out.
Paulsen, who would see his current Hennepin County suburban district shored up with Republican areas under the plan, took a similar view.
His spokesman, Tom Erickson, said he was "hopeful that the governor and Legislature will agree upon a map that reflects recent population shifts so that the state can avoid an unnecessary court battle."
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Capitol Bureau.