New map would put Hennepin County Board chairman in race

  • Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 17, 2012 - 10:44 PM

The Hennepin County Board gave the green light Tuesday to the redistricting plan, which will be up for final approval next week.

Hennepin County Board Chairman Mike Opat will have to run sooner than expected for re-election this year, under a county redistricting plan that won preliminary approval from the board Tuesday.

The First District race would make five elections in the board's seven districts this November. That includes three that already had been slated, since the four-year terms of Commissioners Jan Callison, Jeff Johnson and Randy Johnson expire this year.

The fifth race will be for the seat of Commissioner Mark Stenglein, who is stepping down from the board later this spring to become president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. Several candidates have lined up to compete for the seat.

Like other counties, Hennepin is redrawing its district lines to reflect the 2010 federal census and come as close as possible to equally populated districts of 164,632 to meet constitutional standards.

Both Opat and Stenglein were re-elected in 2010 to four-year terms. But state law mandates that their districts hold elections again this fall because more than 5 percent of the residents in their districts have either arrived or left since 2000. In Stenglein's case, an election would be held anyway because he's leaving office.

The redistricting plan was developed by attorney Brian Rice, a consultant for the county. It will go to the board for final approval next week.

Only one person showed up Tuesday for the board's public hearing on the redistricting plan: Vida Ditter, a Minneapolis resident who asked that the Bryn Mawr neighborhood not be split by district lines. "We leave that entirely up to you, to decide which makes more sense" between the Second and Third Districts, she said.

Under the plan, the First District would no longer contain a portion of north Minneapolis but would gain all of Crystal and New Hope. The Third District would take about 2,900 downtown Minneapolis residents from the Fourth District. The Fifth and Six Districts in the southern end of the county would change little.

The Seventh District, a sprawling area in the northwest suburbs and rural areas that grew more than the other districts, would surrender portions of Plymouth, Orono, Spring Park and Mound to adjacent districts.

County Elections Manager Rachel Smith said that because there are five district seats up for election this year, one will get a two-year term rather than four years. The board will make that decision next week.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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