DFL staffer Vic Thorsten posted a map of the congressional districts.

Glen Stubbe , Star Tribune

Redrawn maps shake up Minnesota's political landscape

  • Star Tribune
  • February 22, 2012 - 5:35 AM

The redistricting maps that reshape politics once a decade on Tuesday pushed U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann out of the Sixth Congressional District she's represented for years and into that of nearby Democratic colleague Betty McCollum.

Bachmann insists she will run in the newly configured Sixth District anyway, even though she no longer lives there.

Legislators won't have that luxury. The maps, issued by a Minnesota judicial panel, will pit 46 legislative incumbents against one another, including some who could be forced to run against other members of their own party or retire.

Coming midway through the state legislative session, the maps are bound to unleash turmoil in the remaining months of lawmaking and on the campaign trail.

DFLers appeared far happier with the new maps than Republicans. "Some things kind of tipped our way," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. "I think we got a fair shot from the courts, which was all I wanted. I just wanted a fair shot at the majority."

Republican state Rep. Sarah Anderson, who chairs the state House Redistricting Committee, said she was "puzzled" by the judicial panel's political plans.

"[I] don't think that they necessarily followed their own criteria," Anderson said of the judges.

A judicial panel appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court stepped in to create a redistricting map after Republicans and Democrats failed to reach agreement on their own.

That map pairs two sets of state Senate DFLers against one another, four sets of Senate Republicans, six sets of House DFLs and six sets of House Republicans. In three House districts, incumbent DFLers and Republicans will go head to head, as will those in two new Senate districts.

Just scrutinizing the new maps was causing some angst Tuesday at the Capitol.

"I can't tell what district I'm in," said Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar. A reading of a less detailed map appeared to match him against fellow Republican Kurt Daudt of Crown.

A few hours later, Daudt said they figured out they would not be in the same district. Daudt pronounced himself "relieved."

Congressional voters change

The court made mostly minimal changes to congressional districts, bypassing the dramatic, east-west lines recommended by Republican Party leaders. The nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report labeled Minnesota's changes "status quo."

But U.S. Rep. John Kline's Second Congressional District will shrink decidedly in the suburban south, while picking up Democratic enclaves in South St. Paul and West St. Paul, making that district more competitive for the Republican.

The Sixth and Third districts now represented by Bachmann and U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen will have a higher concentration of GOP voters, while other districts will turn a shade bluer.

The court also put Bachmann's Stillwater home in McCollum's district. Bachmann said on Tuesday she will run to represent the new Sixth District, which now stretches from the top of Washington County northwest to Benton County and down to include part of Carver County. That area includes much of Bachmann's old district.

Bachmann said she is not sure whether she will move into the new district. Members of Congress do not have to live in the district they represent.

In a fundraising e-mail, Bachmann accused the courts of "cherrypicking the districts."

McCollum said her district, which now includes Stillwater and Woodbury, is "a good district for me."

Freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack, who unseated Democratic veteran Jim Oberstar in 2010's race for the Eighth District, will once again run in a largely Democratic district, ensuring a competitive race, while Rep. Keith Ellison now represents one of the most solidly Democratic districts in the country.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz's southern Minnesota district remains an evenly divided one that skews slightly Republican.

"It's fair to say it's a pretty minimal change," said GOP strategist Ben Golnik, an adviser to Cravaack and state Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca.

Looking to legislative future

In the Legislature, Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights, finds herself up against eight-term veteran Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville. McGuire has been through this before -- a decade ago in the House she was paired against another longtimer, DFL Rep. Alice Hausman of St. Paul. McGuire retired rather than take her on.

"It is two for two. So we'll see," McGuire said. "We'll be having conversations, that's for sure."

Redistricting often sparks a wave of retirements, and sometimes lawmakers opt to move. Under the new map, eight Senate seats have no incumbent heading into the 2012 election. In the House, 15 seats are open.

State Sen. Mike Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, said he and Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, are planning talks about their shared district in the new plan. Jungbauer showed no signs of wanting to give up his seat. He said he relishes campaigning and returning to the Capitol.

"It's going to be fun," he said.

Staff writers Jennifer Brooks and Baird Helgeson contributed to this report. Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @rachelsb. Kevin Diaz is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau.

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