Party conventions take place Saturday, Sunday

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 12, 2002

The next important juncture for elective office hopefuls comes soon.

The Mower County Republican Party will hold both its county and endorsing conventions Saturday.

The next day, the Mower County DFL will hold its endorsing convention.

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A lot is at stake for both parties and redistricting is a major factor. In addition, the DFL Party must find a formidable candidate for the District 27B House seat being vacated by long-time incumbent Rob Leighton, Austin.

Two years ago, Albert Lea Republican Grace S. Schwab upset longtime DFL incumbent Pat Piper for the District 27 Senate seat in the Minnesota Legislature.

The DFL doesn't want to lose another legislative seat to the GOP.

Also spurring interest in the 2002 elections are Mower County races.

Forget the U.S. Senate races. Grassroots politics and the quest for local offices will keep politics on the front-burner throughout the spring, summer and fall.

Woody Vereide, Mower County Auditor, and his staff are already wading into election year duties. "Redistricting has changed everything," Vereide said. "Changes in the boundaries of House Districts 27A and 27B and Senate District 27 will impact on officeholders and voters in Mower County."

Vereide also predicts there could be some changes in the Austin city limits, because of redistricting. But, the county auditor indicated, they will be minor and possibly change the boundaries of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Mower County Commissioner districts if approved by Austin city officials.

"The biggest changes will be in the legislative districts," he said.

Schwab's Senate District 27 adds four townships in northwest Fillmore County to all of Freeborn and Mower Counties.

The city of Spring Valley, Fillmore County's largest population center, is not included in the revamped Senate District 27. Instead, it will be part of Senate District 31, which includes the rest of Fillmore County and all of Houston County.

In other words, Schwab gains turf in her senate district another incumbent State Senator Kenric Scheevel (R-Preston) loses

turf in his

Senate District 31. Both must refile/

District 27A continues to include all of Freeborn County, where Republican Dan Dorman is finishing his second

2-year term in the Minnesota House, plus Mower County townships Lyle, Nevada,

Windom, Marshall and Adams. this means, the cities of Lyle, Rose Creek, Elkton and Adams are now in Dorman's District 27A.

In turn, District 27B, currently incumbent State rep. Rob Leighton (DFL-Austin), now includes the eastern half of Mower County, which State Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) formerly represented.

The Mower County Auditor has seen it happen before -- three times to be exact in 1972, 1983 and 1992. "Since I was first elected in 1968, when the districts were smaller, each time, they have been made lager," Vereide said. "The reason, of course, is the continuing population shift. The Legislature has redrawn the lines to reflect that and, consequently, the rural areas are losing representation, while the Twin Cities metro area districts are gaining more representation."

Now, the Mower County Auditor's office staff is gearing up to notify all county residents of the changes.

Also anxious to receive the information and to verify what they already anticipate are the candidates for elective office this year.

The dismantling of old House and Senate districts and the creation of new and larger districts means traditional Republican and Democratic strongholds have been fractured creating new opportunities for a change in office.

"We've got our work cut out for us," said Vereide.