Minnesota's Redistricting News
Luther to announce political plans today." May 13, 2002
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Democratic Rep. Bill Luther, the Minnesota House member hit hardest by redistricting, planned to announce his political plans at the State Capitol today and there are indications that he will seek reelection in the new Second District, not the Sixth District that he has represented since 1995.
By shifting, Luther would avoid a battle with freshman Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., a well-financed incumbent. Luther's deliberations have focused on whether to run in the Second District or to retire.
Luther's chief of staff, Bob Decheine, said Sunday afternoon that the congressman was still undecided after days of consulting with advisers, family members and friends. Decheine declined Sunday night to discuss Luther's decision, but Luther was believed to have settled on a Second District candidacy.
In late January, Luther's wife, former state Rep. Darlene Luther, died of stomach cancer. They had two children -- a 24-year-old son, Alex, who has Down syndrome and works for a Minneapolis law firm, and a 20-year-old daughter, Alicia, who is in college in Boston. Decheine said last week that Luther was considering retirement because of family concerns.
In March, a special court's redistricting plan carved up the Second and Sixth districts, creating two mostly suburban districts with voting patterns that have leaned markedly Republican. Kennedy, whose old Second District also was dramatically altered, found that he lived in the new Sixth District and promptly announced he would challenge Luther in November. Republican John Kline, a retired Marine Corps officer whom Luther defeated in the Sixth in 1998 and 2000, announced that he would run a third time, but in the new Second District where his Lakeville home is.
State DFL officials have said that about 41 percent of the voters from Luther's old district are in the new Sixth, while about 39 percent are in the new Second District. But the new Sixth includes pockets of strong abortion foes; Luther is an abortion rights supporter. DFL Chairman Mike Erlandson, hoping to preserve his party's 5-3 advantage in U.S. House seats, urged Luther weeks ago to consider running in the Second District.
If Luther were to stay in the Sixth, he would be one of only five Democrats nationwide who have been forced by redistricting to run against a Republican incumbent, and the only one of the five to do so in a state that did not lose a congressional seat because of a population decline in the 2000 census.
As the most prodigious fundraiser in Minnesota House history, Luther would have a financial edge over Kline. As of March 31, Luther had more than $1 million in his campaign account, while Kline had less than $30,000. Kennedy ended the first quarter with more than $500,000 in cash.
-- Greg Gordon is at [email protected] .
St. Louis County Attorney Alan
Mitchell has requested clarification of a state Supreme Court order in the
The suburbs outside the Twin Cities beltway will flex new political muscle while farm country will lose some clout under legislative and congressional redistricting plans that a five-judge panel handed down Tuesday.
The new map takes one congressional seat away from rural Minnesota and moves it to the suburbs.
The new plan for the state Legislature strips rural Minnesota of at least two state Senate seats and as many as five state House seats and moves them to the outer fringes of the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
While redistricting isn't a sexy issue for most voters, it can mean political life or death for lawmakers.
The new lines drawn by the judges put two congressmen ó U.S. Reps. Bill Luther, D-Stillwater, and Mark Kennedy, R-Watertown ó in the same district.
More than one-fourth of state legislators were placed in districts with other incumbents. The order also creates 26 districts with no incumbents.
The ruling guarantees a big turnover in the 201-member Legislature. It will be good for real estate agents. Some "paired" legislators will move to safer districts rather than run against other incumbents. Others will retire.
The most dramatic change dictated by the ruling gives the metro area five congressional seats and the rest of Minnesota three districts. Currently, the state has four metro and four predominantly rural districts.
Suburban and exurban areas get three congressional seats, up from the current two. The new map keeps St. Paul and Minneapolis in separate districts.
This is the second time in 20 years that outstate Minnesota has lost a congressional seat. Before 1982, the state had five predominantly outstate districts and three in the metro area.
The court said the new maps reflect the rapid growth in the 11-county metro area. Fifty-eight percent of the state's population now lives in that region. With the addition of St. Cloud to one suburban congressional district, the region accounts for five-eighths of the state's population.
"Given that Minnesota has eight congressional seats, these statistics indicate that five of the eight districts should lie in this urban/suburban area, while three of the eight districts should lie in Greater Minnesota," the judges wrote.
In the Legislature, rural areas along the northern and western borders lost two Senate and four House seats, according to preliminary legislative analyses. Minneapolis and Duluth each lost one House seat, and St. Paul will have to share a House seat with Falcon Heights.
Most of the new legislative seats will be on the outer fringe of the metro area ó southern Chisago and Isanti counties, western Wright County and the Carver-Scott County area. The St. Paul Park-Cottage Grove-Hastings area gains an open Senate seat, while Woodbury and the Cottage Grove-St. Paul Park area gain new House seats.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court's "one-person, one-vote" rule, all districts must be approximately equal in population. So the new lines match population shifts in the past decade.
State demographer Tom Gillaspy said redistricting reflects the "doughnut effect" of fast growth in the outlying suburbs and declining numbers in the most rural areas.
"Minnesota went from being a rural and small-community state to a mostly metro state over several decades," Gillaspy said. "That causes a shift in the balance of power in the long run from a rural-oriented Legislature and congressional delegation to a much more metro one."
Although that shift is unlikely to produce immediate change in state and federal policies, it is likely to mean more emphasis on issues important to suburban voters, such as growing school enrollments, traffic congestion and green space needs, and less on such rural concerns as farm programs, country roads and propping up small towns.
But Minnesota historically has viewed itself as a single state that pulls together, said Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine. "The strength of our public policy reflects that we act like a single state. This state is going to be strong only if all of its regions are strong.
"It's not in anybody's interest to have healthy suburbs and declining rural areas and central cities," he added.
Leaders of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor, Republican and Independence parties all proclaimed the judges' plans "fair." Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz of the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed the five-judge panel, headed by Chief Judge Edward Toussaint Jr. of the state Appeals Court.
The judges issued their decree when the Legislature failed to pass a redistricting plan by Tuesday's legal deadline.
The Republican-run House, DFL-controlled Senate and Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura could not overcome their partisan differences on this, the most politically charged of their duties.
Legislative leaders predicted no one would appeal the ruling or try to pass a new plan on their own.
Republican Party redistricting specialist Bill Walsh said the addition of so many new suburban legislative seats should be good for the GOP. He said six of the nine open Senate seats and 15 of the 18 open House seats "lean Republican" because more than half the voters in those districts voted for President Bush in the 2000 election.
But Moe said DFLers would be "more than competitive in a majority of those (open) districts." His party has fared well in many Republican-leaning suburbs by fielding stronger candidates than the GOP, he said.
In their congressional plan, the judges rejected a Republican proposal to put St. Paul and Minneapolis into a single urban district.
They noted that the two cities have been in separate districts since 1891, that the past and current mayors and city councils of the two cities opposed that change and the two cities "must compete in Congress for state and federal aid. Ö Such competition would make it difficult for one congressional representative to fairly represent both cities' interests."
They also resisted proposals to "pack" racial minorities into "majority minority districts." Instead, their plan creates several "minority opportunity" districts where nonwhite voters compose more than 30 percent of the electorate. They said that plan would give minority groups "greater opportunities to influence their legislators" and "increase the ability of minorities to elect legislators of their choice, especially if minority groups should choose to vote together in certain districts." Most of those districts are in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Forty percent of current Minnesota legislators would be thrown into districts to compete with fellow lawmakers next year under a redistricting plan proposed Wednesday by Gov. Jesse Ventura.
In drafting the plan, Ventura and his staff didn't look at where legislators live, said Joseph Mansky, the plan's chief architect and project director of the governor's citizen advisory commission on redistricting. The goal was to draw a "fair, balanced and competitive plan" without regard to politics.
Ventura's plan would pair 81 incumbent legislators -- 57 in the House and 24 in the Senate -- according to a legislative analysis. It would create 41 open seats -- 29 in the House and 12 in the Senate -- with no incumbents.
"More open seats is a good thing; it creates competition," said state Planning Director Dean Barkley, advisory commission chairman and Ventura's top political adviser.
Noting that the proposed map creates districts that have little population variance, are geographically compact and provide more opportunities for members of racial minorities to get elected, Barkley pronounced it "an ideal constitutional plan."
"There's no constitutional criterion to protect incumbents," he said. But he acknowledged that the Legislature would never pass such a plan.
He hopes it "spurs discussion" and prods leaders of the DFL-controlled Senate and Republican-run House to negotiate a compromise redistricting plan. Both chambers passed highly partisan plans during the 2001 legislative session, and they failed to resolve their differences before they adjourned for the year. Boundaries for legislative and congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years to reflect population changes recorded by the national census.
If Minnesota lawmakers fail to draw new legislative and congressional boundaries by March 19, a five-judge panel appointed by Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz of the Minnesota Supreme Court will do the job for them.
Barkley said Ventura's plan was designed to "set well with the court." The Independence Party governor and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican parties are expected to recommend their own redistricting plans to the judicial panel next month.
Legislators drew plans that protected majority party incumbents. The bill passed by the Senate paired Republican senators in 19 Senate districts and DFLers in just one. The House-passed bill paired 12 DFL representatives and only two Republican House incumbents.
Ventura's plan treats both parties almost equally. It pairs DFL legislators against DFLers in 15 districts, Republicans against Republicans in 13 districts and DFLers versus Republicans in 12 districts.
The governor's plan creates far more square- and rectangular-shaped districts than the maps shaped by political considerations. "We like straight lines, and we like right angles," Mansky said. Courts require the plans to draw compact districts.
But Sen. Larry Pogemiller, a Minneapolis DFLer who sponsored his party's bill, said "shape is more important than communities of interest" in the governor's plan. The straight lines often split groups of people that traditionally have shared legislative districts, he said.
Nonetheless, Pogemiller said Ventura's proposal contains "a lot of good ideas," and he praised the governor for trying to work with the Legislature to draw new districts. He said DFL senators will propose a new, compromise redistricting plan within a few weeks.
Republican Party spokesman Bill Walsh commended the governor's plan for having almost equal populations in each district. The average deviation is only 0.5 percent from the ideal population.
Ventura's plan also would create 19 "minority opportunity districts" in which racial minorities compose more than 30 percent of the population, thus increasing their chances of winning elections. Minorities would make up a majority of voters in three St. Paul districts and three Minneapolis districts, Mansky said.
In other action, the commission voted to recommend to Ventura a congressional redistricting plan that would strip outstate Minnesota of one seat and shift it to the Twin Cities suburbs. It would give the metro area five congressional seats and reduce the outstate contingent to three members. The state has been divided into four metro and four predominantly rural districts for 20 years.
"Five-three is reality now. It just reflects where people have moved in the last 10 years," said commission member Todd Jones of St. Paul. Fifty-eight percent of the state's population now resides in the 11-county metro region.
Bill Salisbury, who covers state politics and government, can be reached at [email protected] pioneerpress.com or (651) 228-5538.
A special redistricting panel appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura endorsed a revised congressional map Wednesday that would create a rural western Minnesota district reaching from Canada to Iowa, while shifting more political strength to suburban and exurban areas of the Twin Cities.
Minnesota's existing map features four mostly rural districts anchored in the four corners of the state and four urban-suburban districts in the Twin Cities metro area.
Minnesota, like all other states, must redraw boundaries to reflect population shifts in the 2000 census and to equalize the populations of all legislative and congressional districts.
Competing proposals approved during the 2001 legislative session by the DFL-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House essentially accomplish that mission, but each party accuses the other of doing so to maximize political advantage.
Like the DFL map, the Ventura commission's proposal retains two congressional districts centered in Minneapolis and St. Paul; the GOP plan combines the two cities into one central-city urban district. But like the Republican plan, Ventura's creates three essentially suburban districts and abandons the four-corners layout.
The dispute probably will be settled by the courts. A special five-judge redistricting panel ruled this week that it will issue new maps by March 19 if the Legislature and Ventura haven't agreed by then.
The Ventura administration also released, for further study by the commission, its first proposal for realigning legislative districts. The plan, in sharp contrast with DFL and Republican maps, puts many pairs of incumbents in the same districts and creates 41 new House or Senate districts in which no incumbent resides.
By comparison, the House proposal creates 15 open districts and the Senate DFL proposed map creates 20. There are a total of 201 legislative districts, 134 in the House and 67 in the Senate.
"Our plans are more competitive and we drew lines without taking into consideration where incumbents live," said Dean Barkley, director of Minnesota Planning, the chairman of the Ventura's commission and an Independence Party founder.
Only one member of the Legislature, Sen. Bob Lessard of International Falls, belongs to Ventura's Independence Party. Presumably, many more open seats would give the Independence Party more chances to elect members next fall.
Barkley said that, in drawing Ventura's legislative proposal, priority was given to traditional redistricting principles such as respecting natural jurisdictional boundaries, keeping "communities of interest" together, and creating districts that are "compact and contiguous."
The governor's plan also produces slightly fewer districts than either the House or Senate that are calculated to be "safe" from a partisan standpoint.
Barkley said the commission's legislative map features "nice straight lines" and "fewer little bumps and distortions" to accommodate partisan interests.
However, Sen. Larry Pogemiller of Minneapolis, the DFL Senate caucus' lead member on redistricting, said that "communities of interest" don't always conform to neat compact shapes. The Ventura map separates or merges Minneapolis neighborhoods in ways that don't make sense, he said.
Bill Walsh, the Minnesota Republican Party's leading expert on redistricting, said Ventura's congressional and legislative plans have some promising features. But he noted that political competitiveness hasn't traditionally been a high priority of the courts.
And Walsh said it's hard to imagine that the three parties will agree in time to prevent the special judicial panel from stepping in.
Commission members chose a slightly different congressional map from the one Barkley proposed last summer. The original plan created one northern Minnesota district that stretched from Lake Superior to the Dakotas.
Given a choice between creating a single northern district or a single western strip, the commission members voted 7 to 1 for the latter.
Barkley said the decision made sense from the perspective of economic communities of interest. The western district is thoroughly agricultural from top to bottom. Northeastern Minnesota, where mining, timber and tourism are dominant, has little in common with northwestern farmland, he said.
Dane Smith can be reached at [email protected] .
A panel commissioned by Gov. Jesse Ventura on Wednesday released a first draft of its plan for carving up the state' s 201 legislative districts.
The plan is sure to be controversial because it would pair up 81 incumbent senators and representatives -- more than a third of lawmakers -- in the next election. That would leave 41 open seats.
"We do expect some lively feedback on this, " said Minnesota Planning Director Dean Barkley, who also serves as chairman of the 11-member committee." This is a starting point."
A plan developed by the DFL-controlled Senate would leave 20 open seats; the GOP-controlled House proposal would leave just 15 seats open.
Barkley and Joe Mansky, the Ventura panel' s project manager, said incumbents weren' t taken into account when drawing the maps.
"We don' t have any political pressures being put on us -- at least obviously -- as we develop the plans, " Barkley said.
In theory, however, more open seats could benefit Ventura' s Independence Party.
Redistricting is a highly political once-a-decade effort to redraw congressional and legislative boundaries so they contain an equal number of people. The outcome can influence the strength of each party in government, and consequently, the policy priorities that win out over the next decade.
Minnesota is the only state in the nation with three political parties at the table, each trying to defend what it has and maybe even grab a little more power.
The commission had debated whether to even propose maps of its own. Barkley said it decided to do so because the legislative process seemed to have stalled.
The panel also gave its nod Wednesday to a new way to divide the state into eight congressional districts.
The congressional map ultimately being recommended to Ventura by the commission would essentially create one district that represents northeast and north-central Minnesota; one long, rectangular seat running along the entire western side of the state; and one that represents the southeastern corner.
It also would shift the representation from four rural districts and four Twin Cities area districts to three in greater Minnesota and five in the Twin Cities area.
Both the House and Senate have proposed keeping the ratio at four-four.
The Ventura panel plan also keeps Minneapolis and St. Paul in separate districts. That matches up with what the Senate wants to do.
But the House had proposed consolidating the Twin Cities into one district, with backers arguing that it would present the best chance for a member of a minority group to win election. It would also cluster the bulk of metro-area
Democrats into the same district, thus making the surrounding suburban seats friendlier territory for Republicans.
"It' s not a perfect plan, but it comes the closest I' ve seen, " said Tom Foley, a Ventura panel member who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year on the Independence Party ticket.
The Ventura plans would not come into play unless the Legislature couldn' t agree on their own before March 19 -- in time for primary filing deadlines. That would force an already-appointed court panel to step in and come up with a plan. At their disposal would be the House, Senate and Ventura' s plans. They could choose any one of those or draw up the new maps on their own.
Ashley Grant can be reached at agrant(at)ap.org
Rejecting a plea by political activists for an earlier decision on a new political map for Minnesota, a special judicial panel ruled Monday that it won't produce a redistricting plan for legislative and congressional districts until March 19.
The panel was created to draw new boundaries based on 2000 census figures in case the Legislature and the governor can't agree on a map.
Minnesota's precinct caucuses, the first step in a process that leads to endorsement of legislative and congressional candidates, are scheduled for March 5, two weeks before the judicial panel's self-imposed deadline.
In effect, the decision puts pressure on the GOP House, the DFL Senate and Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura to reach a tripartisan agreement for redrawing the boundaries to reflect population shifts in the census.
"The uncertainty of what the courts will do ought to be incentive for all three parties to sit down and work it out," said DFL Party Chair Mike Erlandson.
The five-judge panel was appointed in July by state Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz after the 2001 legislative session went by without a redistricting agreement.
Attorneys representing activists for both the Republican and the DFL parties argued last week during a hearing before the redistricting panel that the March 19 date would create confusion and logistical problems.
For instance, they said, citizens and candidates might go to the March 5 caucuses without knowing for sure which legislative or congressional district they inhabit.
However, Judge Edward Toussaint Jr., the presiding member of the panel, noted in his ruling that the 1991 Legislature set a redistricting deadline for itself that fell 25 weeks before the state primary election; in 2002 that falls about March 19.
"We are bound by the directive of the chief justice to respect the primacy of the Legislature," said Toussaint, who is chief judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The 2001 Legislature made almost no progress toward a redistricting agreement. Republican House leaders, DFL Senate leaders and the Ventura administration each produced maps, and each accused the other two of drawing boundaries to their own partisan advantage.
Toussaint's order sets a deadline of Dec. 28 for submission of proposed redistricting plans. The panel will hear oral arguments for the competing plans Jan. 16.
Dane Smith is at [email protected]
The Legislature will have until mid-March to come up with new political boundaries before a special court panel steps in, based on a judicial schedule issued Monday.
The panel of judges decided to withhold any announcement on the political map until March 19, the drop-dead date set in law for the Legislature to reach its own compromise.
" Our scheduling in this matter is guided by the more explicit statute and by the need to give the Legislature a full and fair opportunity to complete redistricting by the statutory deadline, " said the order, signed by presiding Judge Edward Toussaint, Jr.
Attorneys representing Democrats and Republicans last week asked the panel not to wait, arguing that precinct caucuses might have to be held without voters knowing which candidates are eligible for what offices.
The court' s order said the Legislature could have changed precinct caucus dates if lawmakers feared a missed deadline.
Every 10 years, political maps are adjusted based on U.S. Census data. The goal is to make legislative and congressional districts conform to population shifts so lawmakers at each level represent roughly the same number of people.
Ideally, that task would have been completed in the 2001 session. But split control of the Legislature -- Republicans have a majority in the House and DFLers run the Senate -- resulted in deadlock.
The court panel was established to mediate any disputes. The judges will base any map they submit on legal arguments scheduled for December and January.
People at next year's precinct caucuses won't know which candidates will be eligible to run for what seats unless a special court panel moves up the announcement date for new political boundaries, attorneys for DFL and Republican voters argued Wednesday.
The panel, created to draw new boundaries based on 2000 census figures in case the Legislature and the governor can't agree on a map, plans to decide on its schedule next week.
The problem, the attorneys said, is that by law the Legislature and governor have until March 19, 2002, to produce a new map defining the boundaries of 201 legislative seats and the state's eight U.S. congressional districts.
If they wait that long, the attorneys argued, people attending the March 5 party caucuses could elect delegates to districts that they won't be able to vote in.
Each side suggested a different date, but both attorneys said the court should present its plan several weeks before the caucuses.
The court plan would be final unless Gov. Jesse Ventura signs a legislative plan by March 19. Under a preliminary schedule, the court also gave itself until March 19 to announce its plan.
Attorneys representing the state, Ventura and a group of DFL officeholders argued against the earlier date.
You could call it "Redistricting Roulette," the game that can put political careers on the line.
Minnesota's eight House members are waiting to see how a five-judge panel reshapes the state's congressional districts -- and possibly, their futures -- to reflect population changes in the 2000 census.
The uncertainty is reportedly causing at least one member -- Rep. Bill Luther -- to consider options in a worst-case scenario from retiring from Congress to running for governor.
When state legislators failed to agree on new congressional boundaries, the task fell to the judges, who must draw a new map that ensures that each House member represents 614,935 people. Revisions could be just modest adjustments or a radical realignment that forces two incumbents to battle for the same House seat, while creating a new open seat.
Under a plan proposed by state House Republicans, veteran Democratic Rep. Martin Sabo would find his Minneapolis-based district blended with the St. Paul district of freshman Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum. Democratic-leaning Mankato now sits on the fringe of GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht's First District. If the court shifts it to the Second District, it would be a blow to freshman Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy.
Luther's Sixth District faces the biggest population shift: It has about 106,000 people too many. Under Gov. Jesse Ventura's redistricting plan, much of Luther's swing suburban district wrapping around St. Paul would be shifted to the Republican-leaning Hennepin County suburbs, now in the Third District represented by GOP Rep. Jim Ramstad.
By one Democratic analysis, Luther's current district has a Democratic voting performance of 48.7 percent, meaning that it's an up-for-grabs district. Further erosion in its Democratic base might make Luther unelectable to a fifth term.
Luther's chief of staff, Bob Decheine, said the congressman still hopes the new map will show "minimal change," but that Luther will consider "any and all options" when he sees it.
Officials in Gov. Jesse Ventura's administration released a proposed congressional redistricting plan Wednesday that they promoted as a compromise between starkly differing DFL and Republican plans and as fostering more competitive districts.
Among the key elements in Ventura's proposal for redrawing boundaries to reflect population changes in the 2000 census:
Joe Mansky, a Ventura appointee who helped draw the map, said incumbents' addresses weren't a factor. But Dean Barkley, who is director of Minnesota Planning, an Independence Party cofounder and Ventura's lead official on redistricting, said the map is an effort to find common ground. It was drawn to recognize demographic shifts and make districts more competitive politically, he said.
The Ventura map, for instance, breaks up the strongest Republican stronghold -- the affluent southwestern suburbs of Minneapolis of the Third District -- and puts them in two districts.
And it dilutes DFL Party strength in the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Districts by extending their boundaries into areas where there are more Republicans and independents.
Ventura produced his own map only because it became clear that the Republicans and DFLers were making no progress toward a compromise, Barkley said. He emphasized that Ventura is offering an initial proposal that can be changed.
A special Ventura-appointed redistricting commission hasn't officially approved the plan. It also still hasn't produced a proposal for redrawing boundaries for the Legislature, but it probably will do so soon, Barkley said.
DFL, GOP respond
DFLers generally were more charitable than Republicans in assessing the Ventura plan.
State Sen. Larry Pogemiller of Minneapolis, the Senate DFL majority's lead official on redistricting, said the plan is a hybrid that has "thoughtful pieces to it" and he praised it for keeping Minneapolis and St. Paul in separate districts.
State Rep. Greg Gray, DFL-Minneapolis, one of four racial minority members in the Legislature, said the Ventura plan is more acceptable to minority group leaders because "it gives us influence in at least two districts."
Republican claims that combining St. Paul and Minneapolis into one district increases the chance of electing a minority member are disingenuous, Gray said.
A new combined urban district still would have a minority population of less than 50 percent, and he said the Republicans falsely assume that the three or four major minority groups involved could coalesce around a single candidate. "The Republican plan suggests that all minorities are in lockstep," Gray said.
Republicans criticized the Ventura proposal in no uncertain terms.
"Don't be fooled into thinking that Ventura is some nonpartisan, above-it-all adjudicator," said Bill Walsh, the party's deputy executive director. "The first thing they did was draw an open seat that the Independence Party could do very well in because of the governor's numbers in that area."
Tom Heffelfinger, a longtime legal adviser for the GOP and its leading counsel on redistricting, said the Ventura proposal "fails to recognize the community of interest in Minneapolis and St. Paul" and "perpetuates the historical illusion that these are independent core cities. ... Interstate [Hwy.] 94, between Minneapolis and St. Paul is more important than the Mississippi River, which divides them," he said.
Meanwhile, the parties continue to squabble.
Pogemiller has scheduled five hearings around the state, beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Cloud City Hall.
Ventura's redistricting commission has set a public hearing for 2:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at the State Capitol.
Republicans contend that time is being wasted -- congressional, legislative and local government lines need to be drawn by next spring for the 2002 elections -- and they argue that the House Republican majority already held hearings before proposing its plan.
Republicans have been pushing for resolution of the matter by a special five-judge panel, which Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz recently appointed.
Heffelfinger said that DFLers and Ventura could negotiate, but that Republicans will push for court intervention if progress isn't made in the next 60 days.
"We will use every tool available to us under the law to get a judicial resolution to this," he said. "We have to get it resolved by March 19 so that officials can redraw their boundaries" and parties can prepare for elections.
The impression that Ventura is generally closer to the DFL Party on redistricting was hard to miss.
Jack Meeks, a Republican National Committee member and the party's appointee to the governor's redistricting commission, opened the group's meeting Wednesday by complaining that Barkley appeared to be "working with the Democrats, and Republicans weren't even informed" of a recent announcement that the commission would hold public redistricting hearings.
Meanwhile, Pogemiller praised Barkley and Ventura for "reaffirming that this is a legislative job and that we should get this done."
-- Dane Smith is at [email protected] .
Milwaukee probably won' t keep its two seats in Congress after legislative boundaries are redrawn, but some Democrats say they will go to court if necessary to save the seats their party has held for decades.
" If a map is produced which does not keep two congressional seats based in the city and the county of Milwaukee, that definitely will be challenged in court, " said state Rep. Shirley Krug, D-Milwaukee.
Based on results of the 2000 census, the state will lose one of its nine representatives because its population growth hasn' t kept up with other states. State governments redraw legislative boundaries every decade after the census.
The two senior members of the state' s congressional delegation, Republican Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls and Rep. David Obey, a Wausau Democrat, have been trying to agree on new legislative boundaries, Sensenbrenner said.
" We' re talking. We haven' t exchanged maps, " Sensenbrenner said.
The census numbers indicate Milwaukee County is likely to lose one of its two congressional seats.
Each newly redrawn congressional district would have about 670, 000 people.
Milwaukee has a population of about 597, 000 but has long had two congressional districts.
" Now that the city has lost so much population, it becomes harder and harder to make that argument politically, " said Mordecai Lee, professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a former state legislator.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Kleczka, one of two Democrats who represent Milwaukee, said it would be difficult to argue for two seats in the county.
" It' s going to be hard to make a case to split Milwaukee, " he said. " Especially with the courts looking at redistricting and saying, ' We want community of interests, we want it compact.' The one congressional district would fit that bill."
Two newly redrawn districts in the county, combining city and suburban areas in each district, could give the GOP at least one of those seats because the suburbs are becoming Republican strongholds, Sensenbrenner said.
Milwaukee County Executive F. Thomas Ament said the county should have two seats because of its population of just under a million people.
" Milwaukee County constitutes almost 20 percent of the population of the state, and on that basis, it' s probably entitled all by itself to pretty close to two seats, " he said.
Milwaukee' s other district is represented by Democratic Rep. Tom Barrett, who decided to run for governor instead of Congress next year.
For 20 years, Minnesota has been divided into four predominantly rural congressional districts and four metropolitan districts.
Ventura' s plan would give the metro area five seats and reduce the outstate congressional contingent to three.
The so-called 5-3 plan "most accurately reflects the demographic distribution" of Minnesota's population, Joseph Mansky, the governor's redistricting manager, told the Governor's Citizen Advisory Commission on Redistricting at a Capitol meeting where the plan was unveiled. Ventura did not attend.
The Independence Party governor's proposal drew immediate criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
"It lowers the strength and the voice of rural Minnesota in Congress," said state Republican Party spokesman Bill Walsh. "Republicans are not ready to do that."
Sen. Larry Pogemiller of Minneapolis, the lead Democratic-Farmer-Labor senator on redistricting, said he thinks a 4-4 plan "is better for the state. My largest concern (about Ventura's plan) is the separation of suburban and rural voters. We're a whole state."
Ventura's proposal signals why redistricting is important to Minnesota voters. If his plan were to become law, it would shift political power to the suburbs. The issues that concern suburban voters, such as education, traffic congestion and urban sprawl, would get more attention than such rural issues as agriculture, logging and mining.
But Ventura's proposal is, as Commission Chairman Dean Barkley put it, "not a done deal."
"This is a starting point for the commission," said Barkley, the state planning director and Ventura's closest political adviser. Its purpose is to prod the Legislature, which has a constitutional duty to draw new congressional and legislative district lines, into fulfilling its responsibility. So far, the Republican-controlled House and DFL-dominated Senate are deadlocked on the issue.
In May, House Republicans, on a party-line vote, passed a plan that would merge Minneapolis and St. Paul, two DFL strongholds, into a single congressional district, create a third suburban district and maintain four predominantly rural districts.
That same month, the Senate DFL majority, with no GOP votes, passed a status-quo redistricting plan that would keep St. Paul and Minneapolis in separate congressional districts and maintain two suburban and four largely rural districts.
The U.S. Constitution requires redistricting every 10 years to reflect population shifts detected in the latest census. The Legislature has until March 19 to finish the job. If it fails, the courts will draw new political boundaries.
Mansky, who drafted Ventura's plan, said: "This is an attempt to find common ground between the parties." It borrows ideas from the House Republican and Senate DFL bills.
For instance, it keeps St. Paul and Minneapolis in separate congressional districts, as DFL senators proposed. It also adopts the House Republican idea of merging most of northwestern Minnesota's 7th District and the northeast's 8th District into a single district that spans the northern quarter of the state.
The plan would create two "agricultural districts" in western and southeastern Minnesota, Mansky said.
Dakota County, which is now split into two districts, would be paired with Scott, Carver and southern Washington counties to make a south suburban district.
St. Paul and the rest of Ramsey County would expand into northern Washington County to make a new 4th District.
The 5th District would comprise Minneapolis and its first-ring southern and western suburbs.
A new northwestern suburban district, the 6th, would take in western Hennepin and southern Anoka counties.
The biggest addition would be a huge northern exurban district, the 7th, stretching from Taylors Falls on the Wisconsin border to St. Cloud, and from Cokato and Lino Lakes in the south to Hinckley.
Under the plan, the 7th would the only district with no incumbent living in it. That aroused partisan suspicions.
It shows that Ventura is as partisan as the Republicans and Democrats, said Walsh of the GOP. "He tries to carve out a new, open seat that is tailor-made for an Independence Party candidate because the governor did so well in those northern suburban areas."
Pogemiller agreed the 7th "is where the Ventura voters are."
The governor's plan pairs only two incumbents, Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum of North St. Paul and Bill Luther of Stillwater, in the same district.
The commission will conduct a public hearing on the plan Sept. 19.
Before then, the commission voted to join with a Senate redistricting working group, headed by Pogemiller, that will hold five hearings across the state during the next two months to solicit public comments on the various redistricting plans. The hearings start Tuesday in St. Cloud and will be followed by sessions in St. Paul, Rochester, Windom and Bemidji. So far, Republican lawmakers have declined to participate.
Tom Heffelfinger, an attorney for Republican plaintiffs in a redistricting lawsuit, said the commission is running out of time to forge a bipartisan compromise before the courts step in.
Last month, Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz of the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed a special five-judge panel to draw new lines if the Legislature fails to do it.
On Wednesday, the panel's presiding judge, Edward Toussaint, Jr., ordered that any parties that wish to intervene in its proceedings notify the court by Sept. 14. He set an Oct. 3 hearing for oral arguments on the issue.
Bill Salisbury can be reached at [email protected] or (651) 228-5538.
Minnesota Republicans, trying to rally minority support for a unified congressional district in Minneapolis and St. Paul, threw a party last spring.
They sent mailings to about 100 black leaders in the Twin Cities, set up a conference room in their St. Paul headquarters and waited. But at the appointed 3 p.m. meeting time, only one guest showed up: Lester Collins, executive director of the Council on Black Minnesotans. And he was there more out of curiosity than anything else.
"My concern was education," Collins recalled. "Let people get the information, and then make a decision."
But, he said, " "Most folks I talk to aren't interested."
Widespread skepticism among minority members toward a single urban congressional district -- possibly less prevalent among Hispanics than in the black community -- has led the Minnesota Republican Party into an unprecedented outreach campaign in the Twin Cities.
The effort, which Democrats have contested, reflects a national battle for control of the U.S. House, where Republicans currently preside with a 222-210 advantage.
Both major parties are girding for courtroom showdowns to redraw political boundaries after the 2000 census, which showed sizable gains in minority populations nationwide. In the 1990s, the minority population in Minnesota grew about 85 percent.
The result is that in the Twin Cities -- as in New Jersey, North Carolina and elsewhere -- redistricting is taking on an increasingly ethnic flavor, with Democrats and Republicans sparring over which side has the best interests of minority groups at heart.
The Minnesota GOP pitch -- a reprise of an idea that the party proposed in 1990 -- holds out the promise of an urban "minority opportunity" district in Minneapolis and St. Paul that would be nearly 40 percent nonwhite. Both cities traditionally have been Democratic strongholds.
The Democrats argue that the plan would actually diminish minority voting strength by jettisoning an urban district represented by Democrats, who claim to represent minority members better.
"It's a favorite Republican strategy to pack minority voters into certain districts, in order to dilute their overall voting strength," said Tom Eisenhauer, a spokesman for IMPAC 2000, the Democratic Party's national redistricting project.
Republicans say that the Democrats' position patronizes minority members. "It steams me," said Minnesota GOP spokesman Bill Walsh. "The champions of minority rights say let's dilute minorities into as many districts as we can so we can elect more Democrats to represent them. We're talking about electing minorities directly."
Among those who have helped the Minnesota GOP make that pitch is Lucky Rosenbloom, a black Republican activist who has taken state GOP leaders to meet with black churches and civic organizations. "Combining Minneapolis and St. Paul would be our best chance of electing somebody who represents us in Congress," he said.
But Rosenbloom acknowledges -- as the ill-fated March 28 GOP redistricting meeting showed -- that the party has a long way to go toward bringing around mainline black organizations such as the Urban League and the NAACP.
Republicans have made better inroads with the Hispanic community, said Rick Aguilar, a Republican who owns a St. Paul marketing company. Hispanics are less wedded to the Democratic Party than blacks, he said, and are looking for ways to turn their growing numbers into political clout.
Joining the Hispanic communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul into one congressional district, Aguilar said, "is going to create better opportunities for us."
The Supreme Court has ruled that districts drawn for racial reasons alone can be challenged as unconstitutional. But a federal court in New Jersey approved a state legislative redistricting plan last May that lowered the minority population of three predominantly minority districts around Newark.
According to the 2000 census, minority members make up about 29 percent of Rep. Martin Sabo's district and 23 percent of Rep. Betty McCollum's district. Under the Republican redistricting proposal, they would be 39 percent of a unified district.
Whether that's sufficient to elect a black or Hispanic representative in Minnesota might never be known, without much interest in the redistricting proposal within the black community.
Rep. Melvin Watt, a black Democrat whose North Carolina district is 43 percent non-white, has long been the subject of litigation over racial gerrymandering.
He said "it's impossible to generalize" whether minority members are better off supporting as many Democratic seats as they can, or coalescing into "minority-majority" districts.
"Minority representation is important," he said, "but having people who are sensitive and listen well, even if they're not minorities, is important too."
Democrats know that merging Minneapolis and St. Paul into a single congressional district probably would cost them one of their safest seats in Congress; either that of 12th-term Sabo, of Minneapolis, or freshman McCollum, of St. Paul.
Aides to both have said that throwing the two cities into a single congressional seat would violate court-sanctioned redistricting principles, such as keeping communities with different histories and interests separate.
But underlying much of the debate is the mutual acknowledgment that a unified urban district would create another suburban district, upsetting the state's longtime balance of two urban, two suburban and four largely rural districts.
That would also diminish the clout of the Cities in Congress.
For Republicans, that's part of the plan: "To be fair, that's exactly what we're trying to do," Walsh said. "We're trying to reflect the population shift to the suburbs."
Even without the creation of new congressional districts with strong minority influence, Republicans stand to do well from the 2000 census. Population shifts to the south and west, combined with suburban growth nationwide, have Republicans predicting a net gain of 10 seats in the House.
Gov. Jesse Ventura's administration, the wild card in the Minnesota redistricting equation, has yet to weigh in on the Republican urban district proposal.
But Minnesota Planning Director Dean Barkley said he sympathizes with the GOP attempt to recognize the growth of the suburbs. "That's where the population is, so you have to be fair to them."
Kevin Diaz can be reached at [email protected]
Ramstad vs. Kennedy?
Two weeks after Minnesota Republicans released a map throwing two House Democrats into the same Minneapolis-area district, Democrats countered with a plan pitting GOP Reps. Jim Ramstad and Mark Kennedy against each other.
The Democrats' map would put both Kennedy and Ramstad in a new 3rd district and leave a new 2nd district with no incumbent. The map also would leave Minneapolis and St. Paul in separate districts, challenging the Republican plan to combine the two Democratic strongholds into one House seat for the first time in 100 years.
Republicans recently proposed a map that would place Democratic Reps. Bill Luther and Betty McCollum in the same seat.
"These plans are all clearly partisan," said Michael Brodkorb, the redistricting specialist for the Senate Republican caucus.
Redistricting insiders expect the Minnesota remapping process to rank among the cycle's most unwieldy, if only because no political party will dominate the process. Democrats control the state Senate, Republicans run the state House, and Gov. Jesse Ventura is an Independent.
Kennedy spokesman Randy Skoglund sought to downplay the significance of the Democrats' plan, noting that the "vast majority" of the House maps in the 20th century were ultimately drawn by state courts. "To be quite honest, we haven't been paying attention to each plan that comes out," he said. "There have just been so many of them."
Luther vs. McCollum?
Kicking off action in what could be one of the most unpredictable states facing redistricting, Minnesota Republicans have drawn a House map that pits Democratic Reps. Bill Luther and Betty McCollum against each other in the same district. The GOP plan would create a new district in the Twin Cities where black voters would represent a plurality.
The Minnesota remap promises to be a unwieldy process, if only because it will feature three opposing players instead of the traditional two. Republicans control the state Senate, Democrats run the state House and Gov. Jesse Ventura is an Independent.
Under the plan Republicans released last week, Minneapolis and St. Paul would share one district for the first time in more than 100 years, the suburbs would be represented by three Members instead of two and northern Minnesota, now served by two Representatives, would have just one.
The Republican plan creates a new suburban 6th district with no incumbent. If the proposal is enacted, Luther presumably will move there to represent the suburban voters north of the Twin Cities he has served since 1995.
The measure has already drawn criticism from Democrats and the Ventura administration, which said it is contrary to the governor's priority of drawing a map that fosters strong competition among both major- and minor-party candidates. Ventura aides said the GOP map seeks a clear advantage for Republicans.
Wall Street Journal
"Major Election Reform Falters," Apr. 18, overlooked redistricting, which reveals the sleaziness of our ruling parties. The U.S. sends observers all over the world to rate other countries on their election practices. Too bad we don't have something like that here. Whether under Republicans or Democrats, redistricting is always done so as to create as many safe districts as possible for the party. That's why incumbents almost never lose an election. In 2000 incumbents lost only two congressional races. Our politicians are as much in control as the Communist Party is in China. As a member of the Libertarian Party, I hope voters will take a look at Jesse Ventura's redistricting plan for Minnesota. That plan involves a citizen commission charged with creating as many competitive districts as possible.
Redistricting Battle Builds
By Brian Bakst
February 27, 2001
As demonstrated by a flareup Monday in a Senate hearing, the debate over redistricting is shaping up to be another fiercely partisan exercise despite hopes for a more civil tone.
Pointed exchanges in the Senate committee -- over a "nonpartisan" staff member's participation in a recently filed redistricting lawsuit -- prove it may be impossible to keep politics out of the turf battle undertaken once a decade.
Behind the political and legal jostling lies a critical task: Redrawing the state's legislative and congressional maps to account for population shifts. Detailed 2000 census figures are due to state officials sometime next month.
The goal is to make every vote equal by having each lawmaker represent roughly the same number of constituents. The outcome can influence the strength of each party in government, and consequently, the policy priorities that win out.
During Monday's hearing, Senate Republicans challenged the impartiality of the committee lawyer because he submitted an affidavit for defendants in a redistricting lawsuit brought by GOP activists. "My members don't feel they can trust Mr. (Peter) Wattson," said Sen. Bill Belanger, R-Bloomington.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, defended Wattson. Moe argued that the information Wattson offered in the court document was harmless and shouldn't disqualify him from aiding the committee.
The lawsuit, filed Jan. 4 in Wright County, seeks to have the current political map declared unconstitutional because some lawmakers represent many more constituents than others, thus diluting the voice of some voters. Wattson's affidavit states that the 2000 census, not annual population estimates, offers the only count accurate enough to determine whether district lines are legitimate.
Bill Walsh, a Republican Party spokesman, said one goal of the lawsuit "is to get the courts to start thinking redistricting issues" and lay a foundation for other legal battles that may arise.
Minnesota's courts could end up drawing the boundaries if the Legislature and Gov. Jesse Ventura can't reach consensus or if someone challenges the outcome.
Another point of disagreement surrounds redistricting ground rules. Senate Democrats hope the Legislature will adopt criteria prior to the release of the census figures.
"There is a tendency after you see the numbers to try to formulate what you see is fair," said Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis.
But House Redistricting Chairman Erik Paulsen, R-Eden Prairie, said he's inclined to wait until the numbers come out before deciding on redistricting principles.
"Ten years ago, they waited to pass the (rules) resolution until just before they passed the (redistricting) bill," Paulsen said. "At this point, we don't see any reason to change that."