DFLers decry redistricting plan of ... DFL

  • Article by: KEVIN DIAZ and R ACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER , Star Tribune s t aff w r iters
  • Updated: November 18, 2011 - 9:38 PM

McCollum's chief of staff calls it "hyper-partisan and bizarre."

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Chip Cravaack, US Representative from Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. Democrats were chagrined to see the proposed DFL plan would create a seemingly safe seat for freshman Cravaack.

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The proposed congressional map Minnesota DFLers submitted to a state court redistricting panel Friday touched off loud complaints -- from Minnesota Democrats in Washington.

The plan would place Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum and Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is now running for president, in a single east-metro district. Some Minnesota congressional Democrats also were chagrined to see the proposed DFL plan would create a seemingly safe seat for Republican freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack.

The court itself likely will end up drawing its own map to dictate the shape -- and the competitiveness -- of House and legislative districts in February. But Friday's submissions by the DFL and Republican parties in the high-stakes legal wrangling over lines on the maps showed how much little black lines can change the future.

"The DFL chair and his high-paid lawyers have proposed a congressional map to the redistricting panel that is hyper-partisan and bizarre," said Bill Harper, McCollum's chief of staff. "Their plan ignores the judge's redistricting criteria and it insults established communities of interest, particularly in the east metro."

State Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said that is simply not the case.

"We were paying a great deal of attention to the criteria that the panel put forward and the testimony of people," said Rest, who worked on the DFL maps and plans to introduce them as a bill when lawmakers are back in session. She said the maps were drawn with a keen eye toward keeping like communities together, including the need to merge the eastern metro suburbs with more urban Ramsey County.

The Republican plan, which mimics one GOP legislators passed this year, creates four strong Republican congressional districts, three strong DFL ones and a swing district. That plan won no DFL support in the Legislature and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed it.

Lawmakers may try again next year to agree on a plan for congressional and legislative maps, which would end the court's involvement. But few believe they will succeed at coming to compromise.

"I'm certainly willing to try but I wouldn't be optimistic that we will be able to do so," Dayton said Friday.

Courts have ended up drawing Minnesota's political maps for decades. The current court panel said that it will not do so until Feb. 21, when it is clear the legislative process has failed to do the job.

Friday was the first glimpse at any detailed DFL plans. DFL lawmakers did not propose detailed maps during the legislative session.

The congressional map they submitted to the courts would generally create three safe DFL seats, two safe Republican seats and three seats that are less clear in their leanings.

It would shift the current Eighth District to the west, potentially making it more friendly to DFLers, who lost that seat to Republican Cravaack last year, when he beat longtime Rep. Jim Oberstar.

In the process, the DFL map would put Cravaack in the new Sixth District, a much safer GOP area that includes much of the Republican-rich territory Bachmann now occupies, including Stearns, Wright and Sherburne counties.

The DFL vision also creates a district that would stretch across the entire western border of the state, from Canada to Iowa. That would leave it relatively safe for longtime U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a conservative rural DFLer who lives in Detroit Lakes, but make it difficult to defend for just about any other DFLer who doesn't have his cachet on farm issues.

The Republican map, which slices off the top third of the state to create a new district that includes Peterson's home, made him no happier. Mapmakers also complained that GOP idea would merge communities with vastly different economic interests -- agriculture, mining and forestry -- and geographies -- the Iron Range and the Red River Valley -- into one northern district.

On Friday, Peterson complained that the DFL map is "a blatantly partisan map, in my opinion. The Republican map is blatantly partisan. This is what's wrong with this country." This week, he said he urged DFLers to rethink their district drawings, to no avail.

Now, he's got some advice for the Minnesota court that ultimately will likely decide on maps next year, if lawmakers fail to do so.

"My advice is to the judges is to ignore all these maps and do what's right," Peterson said.

Rest said she has sincere respect for Peterson and McCollum and hopes "that the two of them would re-look at the maps that we did and I would hope they would come to a different conclusion."

Kevin Diaz is a correspondent in the Star Tribune's Washington Bureau. Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @rachelsb

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