Feb 16, 2022 - Politics

Minnesota's new political maps set the stage for election fights

Illustration of the state of Minnesota with moving districts inside it.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Minnesota's new political maps have political prognosticators buzzing.

What's new: A panel of judges released updated legislative and congressional district boundaries yesterday, after the divided Legislature failed to agree on a plan.

Why it matters: The maps will shape the next decade of politics, including partisan control of the Legislature, and determine who represents you and your neighbors.

The big picture: The maps don't significantly change the state of play in the Minnesota's eight U.S. House districts for now — most remain solidly blue or red.

  • The closely watched 2nd Congressional District, a suburban swing seat represented by DFL U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, shifted geographically but retained a slim Democratic advantage.
  • Political headwinds are expected to make her rematch against Republican Tyler Kistner a top battleground again.

Zoom in: Analyzing all 201 state legislative districts will take more time, but operatives on both sides saw opportunity — and challenges — for some incumbents, including in districts targeted last election.

  • Plus: The new maps create several open seats that will be up for grabs.

What they're saying: Peter Wattson, a redistricting expert who was plaintiff in the lawsuit that prompted the court's intervention, identified more than three dozen potential swing districts in the new maps.

  • The Senate plan, for example, gives Republicans an edge but creates "enough competitive districts that either party could win a majority of seats," he wrote in an email.

Between the (new political) lines: Multiple incumbents! Dozens of state lawmakers appear to now live in the same district as a colleague, meaning moves, retirements and legislator vs. legislator battles are on the horizon.

The "pairings" appear to include:

  • Two legislative leaders: Senate DFL leader Melisa Lopez Franzen of Edina was drawn in with DFL Sen. Ron Latz of St. Louis Park, while House GOP leader Kurt Daudt and GOP Rep. Sondra Erickson are in the same Greater Minnesota district for now.
  • A smattering of Democrats in the Twin Cities, including Reps. Frank Hornstein and Jamie Long in Minneapolis and Sens. Jason Isaacson and John Marty in the north metro.
  • And at least nine Senate Republicans — one of whom, Senate President David Osmek of Mound, was drawn into a possible swing district with Minnetonka DFL Sen. Ann Johnson Stewart.

What to watch: More lawmakers contemplating a retirement (or a new job) will probably pull the trigger now that they can see their updated districts.

The bottom line: The court once again sought a "least change" approach, meaning judges tried to alter the lines to account for population shifts without making seismic changes.

  • But the changes still set off a scramble to understand who landed in which district — and how the shifts will impact competition come November.
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