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New Boundaries On Tap For Minn. Seats In Congress

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(credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A proposal released Monday for new-look Minnesota congressional districts, including three that would span from one state border to the next, could give a freshman Republican an easier path to re-election.

Rep. Chip Cravaack, whose stunning win in 2010 has made him a top target nationally, would lose most of the Democratic-leaning turf in his current district and gain plenty of Republican-friendly geography.

The northern third of the state would be rolled into a single district, with veteran Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson as the incumbent.

The redistricting process appears certain to land in the courts. Republicans are in charge of the Legislature, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will only sign redistricting plans with broad bipartisan support. Boundaries are adjusted every 10 years following the census.

The map comes from state House Republicans. But the Senate’s majority Republicans intend to work off the identical proposal as the legislative session pushes toward a May 23 adjournment deadline, said Sen. Geoff Michel, chairman of his chamber’s redistricting committee.

Under the plan, all House districts would have about 663,000 residents.

The state’s eight-member House delegation is currently split at four seats apiece for Republicans and Democrats. Minnesota’s two U.S. senators are Democrats.

Over the weekend, former Democratic state Sen. Tarryl Clark announced her intention to move to Duluth so she could run in the district currently represented by Cravaack. The proposed map would pit her against Peterson instead. She could take on Cravaack by remaining in her current St. Cloud home. A Clark campaign aide said the candidate wasn’t available for comment.

Cravaack, meanwhile, said he won’t let the redistricting process alter his focus in Washington.

“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 in a statement issued through his office.

The GOP map preserves distinct districts for Minneapolis and St. Paul, which are represented by Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum, respectively.

GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is considering a run for president, would see a similarly shaped but smaller district if she sought a fourth term in Congress. Her current district far exceeded the ideal population size after the 2010 census.

“Michele’s decision to run for president is not going to hinge on what her district looks like,” said longtime aide Andy Parrish, her congressional chief of staff. “It’s not going to hinge on which candidates are in or out.”

Three districts — the 1st, 7th and 8th — would all run from the Dakotas to the Wisconsin border. Minnesota’s 3rd district, now represented by Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen, would stretch further into Republican-leaning exurbs.

If lawmakers and Dayton fail to reach accord on a redistricting plan, a panel convened by the state courts would take over and come up with a new political map early next year.

The map produced Monday will get its first vote in a House committee on Tuesday.

State Democratic Party chairman Ken Martin criticized the proposal both in substance and timing.

“The redistricting map released by the Republican majority today is just another example of a highly partisan map that is designed to be steamrolled through the legislature with little opportunity for public reaction,” Martin said.

Legislative Democrats didn’t offer an alternative.

Lawmakers are also tasked with redrawing the boundaries for the 201 state legislative districts. The courts might get involved there, too. Michel, the Senate Redistricting Committee chairman, has piggybacked on a proposed map that has already cleared the Minnesota House.

Click here to check out a map of the proposed Minnesota congressional districts.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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