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Rep. Collin Peterson blasts GOP redistricting map as 'completely political'

WASHINGTON — Rep. Collin Peterson blasted a state Republican plan to redistrict him into a horizontal district that runs across the state from Moorhead to Duluth, while drawing a safer district right below that for freshman Republican Chip Cravaack.

The ever-frank Peterson was by far the most outspoken U.S. representative in responding to the map Minnesota House Republicans released Monday, while others who would see big changes, like Chip Cravaack and Tim Walz, largely stayed quiet about the political ramifications of the proposed-yet-unlikely-to-pass map.

Rep. Collin Peterson
REUTERS/Mike Theiler
Rep. Collin Peterson

"They made a decision that they couldn't beat me, so they gave me a D +20 district," Peterson said, referring to the partisan makeup of the district Republicans put him in. "For me, it's an 85 percent Peterson district."

The GOP map has two horizontal districts splitting the northland. Peterson, in the new 8th, would take the northern band from Moorhead to Duluth and the Arrowhead. Though Peterson lives in Detroit Lakes, the new 8th (as with the old 8th) maintains its population hub in St. Louis County. Chip Cravaack would be the incumbent in the new 7th, a district that also runs from the Dakotas to Wisconsin, but further south, along the northern banks of the Minnesota River, taking in part of St. Cloud and the Twin Cities exurbs in the east where Cravaack lives.

MinnPost's analysis puts that new 8th as a D +17 district, close to Peterson's estimate. We estimate the new 7th to have a five point Republican advantage. An exhaustive analysis of the GOP map is here.

"They obviously decided to make me safe, that way they could make Cravaack safe," he said. It should be noted that Peterson's only declared opponent, Lee Byberg of Willmar (who ran unsuccessfully against him in 2010), is placed in the new 7th, miles outside of the new 8th.

The Red River Valley and Iron Range have been in different congressional districts for more than a century, Peterson noted, adding that the economy of his current district is largely agrarian while the current 8th is more based on mining. 

In 2002, the Special Redistricting Panel, which was comprised of Minnesota judges empaneled to draw new districts, specifically rejected a district running east to west across the Canadian border. In an 11-page ruling, the court cited the lack of high-speed east-west transportation options in the north, equivalent to Interstate 90 in the south, to facilitate a single representative adequately covering the whole district. In addition, they said the Valley and the Range/Superior shore have "natural divisions" and "interests separate" from one another, and that too weighed against combining them.

Response muted in other districts

The response from others in the most affected districts was more muted. Tim Walz, whose southern Minnesota district was made slightly more Republican by taking in a large tract of land in western Minnesota along the South Dakota border, had no comment on the plan.

Cravaack, in a statement, didn't comment on the proposed new lines of his district or his looming race but said he'd remain committed to serving his district no matter what shape his new district eventually takes.

"I want to assure the citizens, families and businesses of the 8th District that I remain committed to fighting for them in our nation’s capital," Cravaack said. "My goal, as always, is to provide a top notch constituent services program. That will not change, regardless of any proposed changes to Minnesota’s Congressional map.

"I remain focused on tackling the critical issues facing the 8th District, the state of Minnesota and the United States as we work together to create a brighter future for the next generation.”

Meanwhile Democrat Tarryl Clark, who bought a condo in Duluth as a precursor to a run against Cravaack that she announced over the weekend, reiterated in a statement that she's "firmly committed to her campaign." Clark's house in St. Cloud would be redistricted into the new 7th, as would Cravaack's in Lindstrom.

"The lines that matter are the ones between the candidates — who will stand up for protecting Medicare and Social Security, who will work to create jobs and get our economy moving again. That’s exactly what I intend to do in Washington," Clark said.

Clark is the only announced DFL candidate against Cravaack so far, though several other high-profile officials are said to be considering a bid.

Gov. Mark Dayton is likely to veto the GOP map, officials with his office said, noting that the governor has said he wanted a plan with "strong bipartisan support," which this one is unlikely to get. Peterson predicted that Democrats in the state legislature will "unanimously oppose it, and they should."

Should Republicans in the legislature and Gov. Dayton be unable to agree on a map, which seems very likely now, the issue would go to the courts. In that scenario, it's unlikely Minnesotans would know their final congressional district makeup until early 2012.

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Comments (5)

Go Tarryl Go! I appreciate your work in solving the housing slump!

Steeped in its own sense of entitlement, this neo-pre-enlightenment GOP majority neither represents nor legislates. It routinely seizes power to which it is not entitled and rules like any other patriarchal, tops-down monarchy. This is precisely what our ancestors fled from when they bailed on Britain and King George.

Are you saying that the new CD-8 has a PVI of D+17?

Blue Dog Collin Peterson could probably be unseated also by a liberal Iron Ranger whose votes for or against legislation would more closely match those of Jim Oberstar.

Whew! ... I'm glad the partisanship question is settled.

For the last few decades I had thought only the DFL proposed one-sided redistricting maps.