Six Anoka commissioners may have to run this fall
- Article by: PAUL LEVY
- Star Tribune
- February 13, 2012 - 11:06 AM
Redistricting this spring could mean that six of Anoka County's seven commissioners will be running for re-election this fall, with only Jim Kordiak expected to maintain his seat without having to file.
County redistricting, the result of population shifts noted in the most recent census, is three months away -- after a court panel releases the new congressional and legislative district lines and the April 3 deadline for cities to define new ward boundaries. The changing district lines within Anoka County are determined by the County Board.
Nobody is yet certain about who will be running, but political sparks already are flying.
"They've been so vindictive in how they've treated me that I'm expecting this not to be pleasant," said longtime Commissioner Dan Erhart, who wonders whether fiscal conservatives Rhonda Sivarajah, Robyn West, Matt Look and Andy Westerberg will vote for a district-line placement that could determine his opponent.
But Sivarajah, the board's chairwoman, countered by saying that the board will try to draw district lines "that make sense."
The three other conservatives who often vote as a bloc with Sivarajah never have experienced a redistricting as commissioners.
"As far as being political" when defining districts, she said, "you'd have to ask Dan. He's been through this."
The county's total population is not the redistricting issue; it's how the population within the county is distributed, said Cindy Reichert, county election manager. If there's more than a 5 percent population shift within a district, new lines are drawn.
For Erhart, Sivarajah and Carol LeDoux (who won a special election in 2010 and is finishing a term started by her late husband, Scott LeDoux), this was going to be an election year anyway, with or without redistricting. West, the board's vice chair, won re-election in 2010, and Look and Westerberg were elected to their first terms on the board in 2010.
Now, all are expected to run this year. Reichert and County Administrator Jerry Soma said that only Kordiak -- whose already densely populated district represents Columbia Heights, Fridley and Hilltop -- is likely to avoid having to run this November. He won re-election handily in 2010.
Some of the commissioners will be running for four-year terms, others for only two years, because the county wants to stagger the elections of its board members, said Soma. Who runs and for how long will be determined when district boundaries are drawn.
West sees redistricting as a positive.
"It's a reminder that the county belongs to the people," she said. "I love door knocking. It's a lot more fun running when you're known.
"I'm not worried about who I run against."
Neither is Erhart.
"Generally, I've received 56 percent of the vote," he said. "I've always done the best I could to serve the people of Anoka County. Regardless of my opponent, that won't change."
Sivarajah promises that new district boundaries will be created logically and not with political intentions.
"There are geographic lines that can guide us -- rivers, county highways," she said. "Robyn West's district includes territory on my district's side of 35W, and my district nearly overlaps her district on the other side of 35W. Wow! That doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
"We'll do this to the best of our ability."
Few understand the chaotic pace of a redistricting year better than Sivarajah.
A political novice when she was elected to the county board in 2002, she found herself running for re-election two years later.
"Elections are hard work," she said. "But knocking on doors gives people an opportunity to know who you are."
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419
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