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Redrawn district lines would give Duluth new representative

ST. PAUL -- The man elected to represent Duluth in Congress would no longer be in Duluth's congressional district under a plan proposed Monday in the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Chip Cravaack
First-term U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, who currently represents Duluth in the 8th Congressional District, would represent a district south of Duluth beginning near Pine City under a redistricting proposal released by the GOP on Monday.

ST. PAUL -- The man elected to represent Duluth in Congress would no longer be in Duluth's congressional district under a plan proposed Monday in the state House of Representatives.

The Republican proposal would create three mostly rural congressional districts that stretch east to west across the state.

The northernmost region, labeled the 8th Congressional District, would stretch from Moorhead to Cloquet, and the incumbent would be Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson of Detroit Lakes, about 200 miles due west of Duluth.

The district's current congressman, Republican Chip Cravaack, would be in the next district south, the new 7th Congressional District, which would begin in Pine County in the northeast and extend southwest to the Minnesota River.

The two northern districts are dramatic changes from current U.S. House lines, and Democrats said Republicans lump together too many dissimilar Minnesotans in the mega districts. The current 7th District serving western Minnesota is heavily agricultural, but the new 8th District would include mining and Duluth, much different demographics than in western Minnesota.

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"It's just a totally different economy," Peterson said. "That's why those districts have been kept separate. ... (The Republicans have) overreached. They could've put a map together that would make some sense."

Although the GOP plan probably would give Peterson a lock on his congressional seat with the addition of heavily Democratic Northeastern Minnesota, Peterson said the redistricting would not make sense given the historical rationale for the current district lines.

Northwestern and northeastern Minnesota have been in separate congressional districts since 1891, Peterson said, and those boundaries have been the guideline for the formation of many regional boards, such as watershed districts.

"It would upset all of that," Peterson said.

Peterson predicted the Republicans' plan probably would be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. Dayton has said he will not support any redistricting map that fails to receive broad bipartisan legislative support. There was no indication Monday that Democrats would support the GOP plan.

It has been more than a century since Minnesota legislators and a governor agreed on a redistricting plan, so the courts have drawn new legislative and congressional district maps for years.

Democrats' primary complaint is that Minnesotans had little more than a day to examine the map before today's committee meeting.

"People have not had enough time to give us any feedback," Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said.

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The redistricting plan will be discussed today in a House committee hearing. The House already passed, with Democrats opposed, a state legislative redistricting plan.

Senate Republicans are expected to release their congressional plan, as well as one redrawing state legislative boundaries, this week.

Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said Minnesota is so diverse that congressional districts cannot be uniform. Duluth needs to be part of some district, the northwest Minnesota lawmaker said.

"Who else is similar to Duluth?" he asked.

A northern lawmaker disagreed.

"We in the north have more connections with Pine County than with Marshall, Pennington or Clearwater, which are agricultural," said state Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth. "It seems like convenience in drawing and not keeping people with like interests together so they can be well represented."

The 7th Congressional District's 22 counties would take in an area from north of the Twin Cities, extending west to the state line, taking in communities ranging from Pine City, St. Cloud, Alexandria, Fergus Falls and Willmar. Cravaack lives in the northeast corner of that proposed district.

The proposed 7th would give Cravaack a heavily Republican district, although with many voters who know little about him. Cravaack would represent his home area of Pine County, but also would represent western Minnesota areas that Peterson long has served.

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Cravaack released a statement reacting to the GOP plan saying he pledged to serve the current 8th district, but his office said he was too busy to answer questions.

"My goal, as always, is to provide a top-notch constituent services program," Cravaack's statement said. "That will not change, regardless of any proposed changes to Minnesota's congressional map."

The day before the map came out, former state Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, announced she plans to run against new Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, so she bought a home in Duluth. However, the GOP map puts Cravaack in a district south of Duluth, but if she maintains her St. Cloud residence, she would compete with Cravaack.

Kristen Daum of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Lisa Baumann of the News Tribune contributed to this story. Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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