Redistricting changes political landscape

By Jeffrey Hage

The political landscape is changing in the Princeton area.

The release of a redistricting plan crafted by a five-judge, court redistricting panel has redrawn the Minnesota House and Senate Districts in the area.

For starters, the District’s name will be changing.

Senate District 16 will now be District 15 and the two house districts, 16A and 16B, will now be districts 15A and 15B.

A new Senate District being created in the Elk River-Big Lake area will also mean that the area will be getting a new representative in the Minnesota House. Mary Kiffmeyer, who holds the House 16B seat has announced that she will be running for the new Senate seat. That will leave the newly-named 15B seat without a representative in the House.

Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) currently holds the 16A seat, but will represent 15A when the new redistricting plan is implemented.

Erickson picked up two areas she has never represented before due to the redistricting, including an area outside Princeton’s back door.

She will be gaining Blue Hill Township in Sherburne County, the township just to the west of Baldwin Township. She will also be representing Southfork Township in Kanabec County, which is a township located directly above the Isanti County line, Erickson said.

“The redistricting represents a move east for the district,” Erickson said.

When first elected in 1998, Erickson represented most of Kanabec County, she noted. But in the 2002 redistricting plan, her district shifted to the west.

“We speculated we’d shift east again and that’s what happened,” she said.

Erickson said she will be representing about 39,600 residents.

Sen. Dave Brown (R-Becker) now has a Senate district that encompasses five counties — Mille Lacs, Kanabec, Sherburne, Benton and Morrison counties.

Brown said he has lost Big Lake, part of Elk River, Livonia Township and Zimmerman. He has picked up the city of Clearwater, Clearwater Township and most of Benton County, with the exception of Sauk Rapids, Sauk Rapids Township and Minden Township near Sauk Rapids. He also picked up a large portion of Kanabec County, he said.

Like Erickson, Brown said his district grew in size.

“The geographical area may be larger, but the population is smaller,” Brown said.

In the Sixth District — where Baldwin Township lies — redistricting has left Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, living in the Fourth Congressional District. But Bachmann has indicated that she intends to seek re-election in the Sixth.

The Sixth District — Bachmann’s district with the congresswoman’s home in West Lakeland Township — posed the largest population challenge of them all. The district was 96,000 residents too big. So the court panel went to work.

It added part of Carver County to the Sixth — Wright County remains wholly within the district — but removed a portion of Washington County.

The Eighth District — in which Princeton and Mille Lacs County lie — required a small change in population.

In the Eighth, that meant adding only about 2,600 more people, the panel noted. The court did this by altering a preexisting split in Beltrami County. The Eighth continues to be home to a number of Native American tribes, including the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in the southern district.