All reservations will now be included in 8th Congressional District
The western expansion of the district means the White Earth Band and Red Lake Nation join five other Anishinaabe bands' reservations already in the district.
DULUTH — The westernmost boundaries of Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District will move further west to include all seven of the Anishinaabe reservations in Minnesota.
A panel of five judges on Tuesday released new boundaries of Minnesota’s congressional and state legislative districts after the divided statehouse failed to agree on new maps.
The panel wrote that it kept northwestern Minnesota, which is more agriculture-heavy, in the 7th District because the 8th District, largely Northeastern Minnesota, “is home to the Iron Range, the timber industry, and outdoor recreation and tourism.”
The change to include all reservations in one district had been requested by tribal leaders, the panel said.
“The new 8th District also adds the reservation lands of the White Earth Band and Red Lake Nation, uniting all populated northern Minnesota tribal lands in one congressional district,” the panel wrote. “This change respects the sovereignty of the American Indian tribes and the request of tribal leaders and Minnesotans across the state to afford those tribes an opportunity to join their voices.”
The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, the central tribal governmental authority for all of the Anishinaabe bands except the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, did not respond to the News Tribune’s request for comment.
Once a DFL stronghold, the 8th District has since 2019 been represented by Republican Congressman Pete Stauber, of Hermantown, who is vying for a third term. He won by 19 points in 2020 over DFL candidate Quinn Nystrom.
And the new district would still give Republicans a 15-point advantage in the district, according to politics and sports statistics website FiveThirtyEight.
Cindy Rugeley, an associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota Duluth, echoed that.
“I don’t see any signs that it’s going to change the partisan makeup of (the 8th District). I still think it’s going to be a Republican district,” Rugeley said. “But again, it might give Native American reservations maybe a little bit bigger voice.”
In an emailed statement to the News Tribune, Stauber did not address a question on what he thought of the district now including all of the state’s reservations.
“Moving forward, I welcome the opportunity in 2023 to serve residents of Minnesota’s new 8th District and continue championing our way of life while pushing back against Washington's runaway spending, skyrocketing inflation, nonsensical calls to defund our police, and Joe Biden's continued assault on our small businesses and the middle class,” Stauber said.
In addition to the reservations, the boundary changes mean the entirety of Lake of the Woods, Clearwater and Mahnomen counties move from the 7th Congressional District to the 8th Congressional District.
The new map also adds the remainder of Beltrami and Chisago counties and part of Becker County to the 8th District.
But the 8th District loses all of Morrison and Wadena counties and parts of Hubbard County.
The DFL’s 8th District unit did not respond to the News Tribune’s request for comment.
Legislative districts grow in size but largely remain the same
There were no drastic changes among the state Senate and House districts in Northeastern Minnesota.
Some districts have new numbers assigned to them and many are larger.
Reflecting a national trend, the population has grown faster in cities than in rural areas. So to evenly divide Minnesota’s population of 5.7 million across the set number of seats — 67 in the state Senate and 134 in the state House — districts outside of the Twin Cities grew in area to pick up more people.
In Duluth, that means the Senate district held by Sen. Jen McEwen and House district held by Rep. Jennifer Schultz, both DFL, will now cover the area between the Kenwood neighborhood and the Duluth International Airport.
At the same time, the Fond du Lac neighborhood in Duluth will no longer be represented by the districts held by McEwen and state Rep. Liz Olson, DFL House member for the western side of Duluth.
Instead, the Fond du Lac neighborhood has joined the House district held by state Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, which covers the area north of Duluth and up the North Shore to Two Harbors and the Senate district that independent Tom Bakk holds. Bakk’s senate district covers much of the Arrowhead region and extends along the Minnesota-Canadian border but excludes the Iron Range.
“I picked up a couple of the Duluth precincts, so now it’s more holistically Duluth,” McEwen said of the redrawn district. ”Except for the very southwest end.”
This story was updated at 11:31 a.m. Feb. 17 to correct two maps that did not contain all reservations. It was originally posted at 12:26 p.m. Feb. 16. The News Tribune regrets the error.