UPDATE: Congressional run among options, Lillie saysWoodbury has a Senate district to itself and a current senator left to explore his options after the release of redistricting maps.
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
Woodbury has a Senate district to itself and a current senator left to explore his options after the release of redistricting maps.
New maps released today by a judicial panel re-carved the state’s political boundaries and, with that, reshaped legislative representation for Woodbury for the next decade.
The city will no longer share Senate representation with communities like Stillwater, Lake Elmo, Oak Park Heights and Baytown. The new district – Senate District 53 – comprises all of Woodbury and the southern tip of Maplewood, in addition to Landfall, the city to Woodbury’s west.
“It’s healthy for Woodbury to have one Senate district,” said Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo. “This will allow for a focus on the community.”
The new House Districts 53A and 53B are split vertically through the city – the exact dividing line of which was not immediately available on an early map. The larger portion of Woodbury will lie in House District 53B.
If re-elected as a Lake Elmo resident, Lillie would no longer represent Woodbury in the Senate. His new district, Senate District 39, now runs from Interstate 94 and covers all of north Washington County and a sliver of Chisago County.
Lillie said maps submitted by Republicans and Democrats left him comfortable with the political landscape – and left him anticipating some blend of the two.
“This one was a surprise,” he said of the new district lines. “I did not anticipate a map that would take me all the way up to Taylors Falls.”
Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Lake Elmo, will now be running in a district that looks similar, but no longer includes north Woodbury. Instead, the new House District 39B stretches farther north, including Grant Township.
The new Senate lines leave Lillie in a pickle: the Republican senator and Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, now share the same district.
Lillie said he hasn’t yet made up his mind on what to do, but said he has options. Besides leaving the conflicted district seat for voters to decide, he noted he could move to Woodbury and run for the new Senate seat.
“That could be a possibility,” he said.
The other option Lillie said is available to him would be running in the new 4th Congressional District, which now includes incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum.
“It’s something we need to be aware of,” Lillie said of the congressional seat.
He also took aim at McCollum, the St. Paul resident whose new district now includes most of the east metro, including Woodbury and Lake Elmo.
“It will be interesting to see how her extreme politics” match up with new communities, Lillie said.
Lillie called Vandeveer a “good friend” and said he had attempted to contact him about the conflict.
Afton is now in what’s known as Senate District 54, which also comprises Cottage Grove and Hastings.
In the U.S. House, relatively little change was in order as a five-judge panel released new political maps, although former presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann said she would seek re-election to a northern Twin Cities district, even though she no longer lives within its boundaries.
Those most interested in the Legislature were looking at the new maps district by district to see how many incumbents may end up paired in a district and how many districts there may be without an incumbent. That analysis could take hours.
Three congressional districts are mostly rural and the other five are mostly suburban or urban.
Bachmann’s 6th also looks much like it did, although it loses the northern part of Washington County, where she lives. Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum’s 4th expands into Washington County to link St. Paul and eastern suburbs.
Bachmann and McCollum now live in the same district, but the U.S. Constitution does not require a U.S. House member to live in the district he or she represents. Bachmann plans to seek re-election in the 6th, which stretches across the northern Twin Cities to St. Cloud.
In eastern Washington County, the judges followed the wishes of residents from there who testified at public hearings and kept much of the area along the St. Croix River in one Senate district.
Much of the Twin Cities’ population growth has been in the outer-ring suburbs, known as exurbs. Today’s new maps reflect a long-time move of people from rural Minnesota to the Twin Cities area.
However, since many suburbs also include farmland, separating suburbs from rural areas sometimes is difficult.
Making comparing rural and suburban areas even more complex is the fact that the Twin Cities metropolitan region often now is considered an 11-county area. In the last census, it was considered seven counties.
Redistricting is more than political sport. Even though no one accuses the five judges of drawing the new maps for partisan advantage, how they drew lines will go a long ways to determine how competitive races will be between usually conservative Republicans and mostly liberal Democrats.
In some states, one party controls the legislature and governor’s office, giving that side a chance to draw lines favoring the party. In Minnesota, the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton last year could not agree on new maps, throwing the decision to the courts.
Redistricting is required by two U.S. Supreme Court rulings and the Minnesota Constitution as a way to keep the same number of people in elected officials’ districts.
For instance, after the 2010 U.S. Census, Minnesota’s eight congressional districts varied in population from 614,624 in the St. Paul area to 759,478 in a district on the north edge of the Twin Cities. Redistricting was needed to even out populations of all the districts at about 663,000.
The same was true of the 201 state legislative districts, with populations of the exurbs around the Twin Cities growing most rapidly while many rural areas grew slower or lost population.
Knowing that Minnesota politicians have a history of not agreeing on new district maps, with the courts forced to make the final decision, Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea of the Minnesota Supreme Court last year established a five-judge panel to hold hearings around the state and establish congressional and legislative district lines.
Gildea set up the panel based on a court case filed more than a year ago asking the courts to be involved. A case also filed in federal court remains on the books, but was suspended pending state court action.
Besides hearing from citizens around Minnesota, the five judges have heard from the two major political parties and others interested in the new maps.
In coming days, some legislators and potential candidates may consider moving to a new district. A legislative candidate must live in the district at least six months before the Nov. 6 election day.
U.S. House members do not need to live in the district they represent.
Forum Communications Bureau Chief Don Davis contributed to this report