GOP consultant Gregg Peppin’s contrarian view sees party keeping legislative control

2012 redistricting map detail

After months of studying Minnesota’s new redistricting maps, Republican consultant Gregg Peppin has made a contrarian prediction about the 2012 legislative elections and who will end up in control.

Greg Peppin

Greg Peppin

Unlike many political observers, Peppin, a longtime party strategist who has worked on state redistricting plans in 2002, believes the new maps will allow the GOP to keep control of both houses.

Currently, the Republican-DFL legislative split is 37 to 30 in the Senate and 72 to 61 with one vacancy in the House.

“What I will say is that I can envision a scenario where we come out exactly where we are now,” he said. “The map is either a wash or a slight Republican edge. I don’t see this being a huge swing of 10, 11 seats.”

His views contrast sharply with the DFL’s redistricting analysis outlined by my colleague Eric Black here:

 “DFL State Chair Ken Martin recently told me that the way his party scores the partisan lean of the new districts, the DFL has at least a slight advantage in 73 House districts and 34 Senate districts. If (a big “if” unless and until it happens) the DFL candidates were to prevail in those districts, it would give the party a substantial (73-61) majority in the House and a bare (34-33) single vote majority in the Senate.”

So, how does Peppin arrive at his conclusion when political observers, media outlets and even fellow Republicans say the new districts give the DFL an advantage in the November election?

Those assumptions were based on the fact that redistricting created fewer open seats, Peppin said. That was predictable, he said, “The previous 10 years of growth has leveled off.

“But just because there weren’t a lot of open seats created in that shift, you do create the little shifts that can mean a lot,” Peppin argues.

He maintains that in the refiguring of legislative districts, the judicial mapmakers took but also gave, adding Republican voters to districts where they will make a difference.

He offers specifics for several Minnesota House races that were close last time:

King Banaian, R-St. Cloud: “His district lost some city of St. Cloud precincts and gained some township precincts like Minden Township.  This is where it’s 65 percent Republican. You’ve taken a thousand voters out of St. Cloud and replaced them with a thousand in Minden.”

Kelby Woodard, R-Rice and Scott counties: “He won by 37 votes.  He had Northfield in his district.  Northfield was taken away. Now it’s a 56 percent GOP district.  He went from being extremely vulnerable to being extremely safe.

Patti Fritz, DFL-Rice and Steele counties: “She lost Blooming Prairie — a DFL stronghold — and added more townships in Dodge County. She won by 152 votes, taking 164 votes in Blooming Prairie.  But for Blooming Prairie, she wouldn’t be in the Legislature right now.  In a race like this, this could make a difference.”

On the Senate side, Peppin sees similar tweaks fromt the 2010 races:

Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, Bloomington: “This improved. With the new lines, he lost Bloomington and picked up Savage.”

Pam Wolf, R-Anoka County: “She lost Fridley and gained swing precincts in Coon Rapids, so her district went from a lean DFL to a swing.”

Peppin dismisses complaints that judicial mapmakers had a partisan purpose behind their efforts, noting that Minnesota is a difficult state to gerrymander.

“Even on my best day, when I wanted to get really partisan in my redistricting proposals, you can’t,” he said.  With the state’s compact and homogenous districts, “it’s like a balloon. You push it here and it comes out the other side,” he said.

The overview: Legislative boundaries can become less relevant in an election year with an over-arching major theme, scandal, or success.  2012 hasn’t shaped up to be that kind of year.  The economy dominates, but voters have already gone through two elections of bad economic news. Other than the presidential race, they may be desensitized to broader issues. A candidate may need only to address what the voters in his or her county are worried about.

In the 2012 legislative races, for the voter, politics is local — and for the candidate, political success is the locale.

Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by David Broden on 05/31/2012 - 11:19 am.

    What is the Winning Campaign Message?? Positive or Negative?

    Having been involved in several redistricting cycles, drawen maps, done voter analysis etc. –the statistic are useful but only if there is a candidate and message with a purpose and vision. To simply state that some of the districts look better is far to simplistic.The independent vote has and will continue to be the swing in Mn. The question is what does the Mn GOP have as a message to voters that gives a vision of future for Mn. As I speak to voters across Mn more of the same will not work–the people want a future and a legislature that will move Mn to that direction. This will require new approaches to government, etc. Bottom line is leadership and vision will be more critical than a district voting history or predictions. The reality is as I see it –there will be significant change in the legislature and no issue or message has yet be communicated that will capture the votes of either side. Thus the new legislature make-up will be wide open to both sides with the DFL likely to have a small margin in at least one house. A split legislature is definitely a possibiltiy.

    Dave Broden

  2. Submitted by The Doctor on 05/31/2012 - 11:58 am.

    rejected I don’t even

    know where to begin. Let’s ignore the abysmal approval rating of the Legislature from the latest KSTP/SurveyUSA poll. Let’s ignore the shameful misconduct of Amy Koch and the lawsuit her conduct exposed the Minnesota Senate to, and the resultant publicity her conduct has wrought.

    Let’s ignore the generic ballot advantage the DFL enjoys, and ignore that the Romney campaign has essentially given up Minnesota to President Obama. Let’s ignore the divisive gay marriage ballot question that will energize young voters statewide. Let’s ignore that the Minnesota GOP is completely, utterly broke and would have been forced into liquidation had they had to play by the rules of private businesses, and are crippled to assist their candidates financially.

    Then, let’s cherry-pick certain legislative races and ignore others (like Deb Kiel’s razor-thin victory, for example) and throw some banal boilerplate about how all of my points above either don’t exist or don’t matter and this is the lazy, rote, talking-point dictation you get.

    • Submitted by Arito Moerair on 05/31/2012 - 02:47 pm.

      I would agree with you if I thought that anyone will remember or care about those incidents come November. Just because Amy Koch is a total hypocrite doesn’t mean those people will suddenly vote for the DFL.

      The GOP won big in 2010 because Democrats stayed home, NOT because there was some huge tea-party sentiment as the mainstream media would have you believe. This year, as always, will hinge on turnout.

      • Submitted by The Doctor on 05/31/2012 - 04:51 pm.

        Amy Koch

        is just a symptom here the bigger problem — a lack of vision, leadership, and integrity. It’s part of why the GOP is now over a million dollars in the red and was almost evicted from their offices. This, not her sex life, is what will hobble GOP prospects to hold the legislature.

  3. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 05/31/2012 - 01:08 pm.

    Republican consultant predicts republicans keeping legislature. Stop the presses.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/31/2012 - 01:20 pm.

    Yeah, let’s ignore

    the irrelevant administrivia of inside baseball and party politics and recognize that given a choice between lower taxes, less spending and a friendlier business climate that is conducive to creating jobs, and the democrats who’s only mission in life is to take more of what you earn to spend on nonsensical projects, the thinking people will vote republican as they did in 2010.

    • Submitted by The Doctor on 05/31/2012 - 03:22 pm.

      What you call

      “inside baseball” will matter a great deal; your hope that 2012 will look anything like 2010 cannot be pointed to in any Minnesota polling data whatsoever.

      There is, however, ample polling showing a legislature that is deeply disliked by Minnesotans.

      Good luck.

  5. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/31/2012 - 01:43 pm.

    Quelle Surprise!

    A Republican consultant sees the GOP retaining control of both houses–who would have thought? The newsworthy item would have been if he had seen losses coming.

    The fundamental flaw in his hopefulness is the assumption that geography is destiny. Voters’ preferences are not written in stone because of their addresses. What do the Republicans have to offer this time aroud? More partisan bickering? Continued fiscal mismanagement? Divisive social issues in lieu of the promised “laser-like” focus on jobs and the economy? Candidates would do well to think of their message and their record, instead of mapping details.

  6. Submitted by Lora Jones on 05/31/2012 - 03:00 pm.

    The Doctor recites more than one reason

    to believe Mr. Peppin is whistling past the graveyard more than looking at the facts. The one that is, perhaps, the most important, however, is that the R majorities were gained by the slimmest of margins in a low turnout, non-presidential year. No matter how good the map is or isn’t for the Goopers, it’s hard to imagine a repeat.

  7. Submitted by David Broden on 05/31/2012 - 03:45 pm.

    Data Analysis–Ask the Answer vs. Objective Data Analysis

    When consultants do analysis or a poll is taken there are two approaches that are used. The first is to defined the answer wanted and then do the analysis to support that position–a common approach in political polling. The other is to define objective metrics/measures of the situation and estblish questions that seek to get objective answers. This usually requires repeating the same question with alternate sentence structure to sort out and verfiy the answers. Mr Peppin clearly was given a mandate to show that the GOP will win again so he sorted the data in his favor–that is the first approach above. Anyone in Mn can see the problems the GOP has with lack of leadership, inability to manage party finances (effectively missuing contributor funds), and no vision for the future of Mn particularly in education and jobs. The other side may not be much better when ideas are considered but they do not have the record of mismanagement and confusion in the legislative process that the GOP demonstrated in the past 2 sessions. This election will measure voter attention to the integrity and actions as well as the vision and ideas put forth. Geography of districts will have some effect as it always does but the voters are wiser than some are suggesting. Don’t ask the answer ask the question of what the people want and then build a program to get there. The GOP cannot see that path.

    Dave Broden

  8. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 05/31/2012 - 07:31 pm.

    GOP Voters

    Peppin must be living in lala land. I don’t think he realizes how many long time GOP Voters like myself wouldn’t vote for GOP candidate after there fiasco’s, name calling, sex scandals, lying and almost anything else you can think of. I have voted GOP for almost 50 years, but not this year and maybe never again.

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