ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A proposed remake of a Minnesota congressional district map would lump Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum into a district with Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, the presidential hopeful who hasn’t ruled out another bid for Congress should her current campaign fail.
The pairing is a key feature of a map put forward by Democratic Party lawyers Friday. It’s an option for a special state court panel to consider as it oversees the politically charged process known as redistricting.
It came at the deadline for the parties to submit ideal versions of congressional and legislative maps. The court panel expects to issue a verdict in late February, fewer than nine months before the 2012 election.
Every 10 years district boundaries are adjusted to account for population changes in the census. The aim is to create districts for each office with similar numbers of people.
Republicans previously crafted a congressional map that leaves all eight Minnesota incumbents in separate districts but dramatically alters the shape of some. Their submission to the court Friday mirrors the earlier map.
The Democratic map would help freshman GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack stay in Congress because it removes him from a northeastern district that leans Democrat, leaving the seat covering that area incumbent-free for the 2012 election. His new district would have plenty of Republican-leaning pockets.
It also would give the dean of Minnesota’s delegation, Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, more ground to cover. His new district would run the length of Minnesota’s western border from Canada in the north to Iowa in the south.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the GOP-controlled Legislature could short-circuit the court case by negotiating a deal before a ruling. But Dayton said he considers that outcome unlikely.
McCollum blasted her party’s map in a statement from her chief of staff.
“The DFL chair and his high-paid lawyers have proposed a congressional map to their redistricting panel that is hyper-partisan and bizarre,” the McCollum aide, Bill Harper, said.
Bachmann has repeatedly declined to comment on her fallback options if her presidential campaign doesn’t survive the GOP primaries. An adviser for Bachmann did not immediately respond to a message Friday.
Another map submitted by a Democratic lawyer working separately from the party would leave McCollum in a district by herself and make more subtle changes to the congressional districts.
In May, majority legislative Republicans approved new maps for Congress and the Legislature that Dayton vetoed.
Under their congressional version, three districts would span from one state border to the next.
Cravaack, who defeated a seemingly safe Democratic incumbent in 2010, 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 Peterson as the incumbent.
Bachmann 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.
Under each 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.
For the competing legislative redistricting proposals, the intrigue surrounds the number of incumbents who would be forced to run against each other.
Democrats want to set up six incumbent rivalries in the state Senate and 17 in the House, most involving sitting Republicans. Nine seats would have no incumbent.
Republicans would have two incumbent match-ups in the Senate and eight in the House, most involving Democratic lawmakers.
One highlight from the Democratic legislative map is a northwestern House district that has an American Indian population of nearly 30 percent. Party officials say it would be among the most concentrated Indian districts in the country and give a tribal member a good shot at joining the Legislature.
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