Minnesota's eight congressional districts would get a new look under a redistricting proposal put forward Monday by Republicans in the state House.
The plan would protect every incumbent member of Congress by not pairing them with another incumbent, but the proposal would create three districts that run from Minnesota's eastern border to the state's western border.
Under the Republican proposal, 71 of the state's 87 counties would be covered by three congressional districts.
Minnesota's 1st District, currently represented by Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, would continue to to cover the southern portion of the state but would also creep north along the Minnesota River to include cities like Marshall and Madison.
BIG CHANGES IN THE NORTH
The bigger changes would be in northern Minnesota. Instead of the way the 7th and 8th Districts currently divide northern Minnesota in a north-to-south fashion, the boundaries would run east to west. That means Duluth, the Iron Range, Bemidji and Moorhead would all be included in a new 8th District.
The proposed 7th District would include more Republican-leaning areas like Pine County, Chisago County, Stearns County and Big Stone County. The five other congressional districts in the plan would include Minneapolis, St. Paul or the surrounding suburbs and exurbs.
State Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, said her plan reflects Minnesota's population shift over the past decade.
"Minnesota is changing. Our population is changing. How we do business in the state, our economy ... all of that is changing," Anderson said. "I think this map is reflective of those changes."
CRAVAACK WOULD BENEFIT
The plan would mean Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson would swap districts with Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack. And that means Cravaack would have a better shot at winning re-election, since the current 8th District with Duluth and the Iron Range includes more Democrats than his new district would.
Peterson said he's not impressed with the maps. He said Republicans are focused on protecting Cravaack.
"They decided they couldn't beat me, so they put me in a safe district and then they created a Republican district for Cravaack and made Walz's district tougher for him," he said.
Cravaack was not available to comment on the proposal, but his office released a statement saying it won't alter his commitment to the 8th District.
It could alter the plans of Democrat Tarryl Clark. Clark announced on Sunday that she was moving from St. Cloud to Duluth to challenge Cravaack — a scenario that wouldn't occur under the proposed map. Her campaign said the proposal hasn't changed Clark's focus, but didn't specify whether she planned to live in Duluth or St. Cloud.
The plan also keeps Minneapolis and St. Paul in separate districts — despite concerns voiced by some Democrats that the two cities would be placed in the same district.
But Democrats still object to the proposal. DFL Party Chair Ken Martin released a statement calling the plan "highly partisan." State Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, expressed concern that House Republicans planned to vote the proposal out of committee just 24 hours after the maps were released.
Marquart said he's also concerned that the 7th and 8th Districts would lose their identities.
"I think [the 7th District] would lose its identity as being an agricultural-based district versus the old 8th, which was mainly a mining district when it comes to resources," Marquart said.
NO COUNTERPROPOSAL FROM DFL YET
Republicans in the Senate have said they plan to adopt the House plan. It will then be up to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to either sign or veto it, and he has said he wants broad, bipartisan support for a new map.
Rep. Sarah Anderson said she'd be happy to work with Democrats, but neither Dayton nor House Democrats have offered a counterproposal.
"We haven't had the feedback from members of the minority or even from the governor's office," Anderson said. "If you don't offer a solution, it's hard to work something out."
The courts will take over the process if Dayton and the Legislature can't reach agreement by February 21, 2012.
THE PROPOSED MAP: