Opinions vary on new district lines

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Minnesota Senate Redistricting Panel reconfigured District 27 to include parts of Faribault and Dodge County, while eliminating parts of Fillmore County. Wells, Kiester, Walters, Hayfield and Blooming Prairie are now in House District 27A, while London, Lyle, Myrtle, Adams and Rose Creek are in 27B. -- Austin Daily Herald Graphic

Court releases redistricted legislative maps

Wells, Kiester, Walters, Hayfield and Blooming Prairie are now in House District 27A, according to new maps released Tuesday. London, Lyle, Myrtle, Adams and Rose Creek are out.

Austin and Albert Lea remain in Senate District 27, despite requests to separate the two cities.

No incumbent in District 27 — state Rep. Rich Murray, state Rep. Jeanne Poppe and state Sen. Dan Sparks — were paired against another incumbent, as happened statewide in about 15 districts.

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The Minnesota Supreme Court’s Special Redistricting Panel released its congressional and legislative maps Tuesday, settling a months-long battle over the state’s representation.

Redistricting takes place once a decade, after the federal census, to reflect population shifts in congressional and legislative districts.

The inability of Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP lawmakers to agree on a political realignment threw the issue into the courts, where it has almost always landed in recent decades.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea appointed a panel of state judges to draw up new maps, and the group considered proposals from interested groups including the state Democratic and Republican parties.

Poppe, DFL-Austin, no longer represents the four northwestern townships of Fillmore County, but instead picked up Vernon Township in Dodge County, and London Township in Freeborn County. Her district also picked up the Mower County townships of Lyle, Nevada, Adams, Marshall and Windom. Now her district encompasses all of Mower County minus one township.

“It’s good to have the bulk of Mower County together,” Poppe said. “I’ll be able to continue working on Mower County issues.”

Poppe noted legislative representation will be even heavier in and around the Twin Cities metropolitan area when compared to the 2002 maps. The metro area has grown the most in Minnesota over the past 10 years, and therefore will have the largest new representation. That means Greater Minnesota may not have as large of a voice in the Capitol.

“The suburban areas because of their growth are able to pick up more seats,” Poppe said.

Under the new maps, Murray, R-Albert Lea, now represents the eastern tier of townships in Faribault County — Dunbar, Clark, Foster and Kiester — along with Udolpho Township in Mower County and Westfield and Hayfield townships in Dodge County.

Murray said he was glad to continue representing Freeborn County as well as pick up part of Faribault County.

“A lot of the same groups I’ve had going forward will be the same groups I will be working with,” he said.

He said picking up Hayfield and Blooming Prairie works to his advantage. He grew up in Dodge County just north of Blooming Prairie.

“I’m happy to serve that area,” Murray said.

And he said because the Wells and Kiester area has a natural work and shopping connection with Albert Lea, having the eastern townships of Faribault County in his district makes sense.

“We have a good relationship,” he said.

Mower County GOP officials say the maps put to rest a proposal to push District 27 east to the Mississippi River, though the move north and west into Dodge and Freeborn Counties means more administrative work during endorsements.

“It’s fair to say we were not real keen on that,” said Dennis Schminke, Mower County GOP chairman on the district possibly incorporating Fillmore and Houston counties. “That’s a long way for anybody who would be trying to manage a senate district.”

The redistricting maps also settle a dispute between the Freeborn County Republican and DFL parties. Republicans wanted Albert Lea to be in a separate Senate district than Austin. They sought to caucus with districts to the west, even attending a redistricting hearing before a judge in Mankato last fall to make their case.

“I would like to have seen us move west,” said Al Arends, Freeborn County Republican Party chairman. Arends thinks Austin and Albert Lea do share a few partnerships but believes each community is ideologically different and should have separate representation in the state Senate.

“You always look for the best advantage you can get,” Arends said. “We’ll work hard with our district and see what comes.”

The Senate district did move slightly west, picking up part of Faribault County and dropping part of Fillmore County, but it moved north, too, picking up the three southern townships of Dodge County.

Though local Republicans may not be satisfied, the redistricting maps come as good news for the DFL party.

“I think it’s great,” said Art Anderson, Freeborn County DFL chairman. “I was hoping to stay right where we were at.”

Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, who represents District 27, did not return several phone calls.