Minnesota court makes changes to House Democrat's district

A panel of Minnesota judges tasked with redrawing congressional district boundaries has ordered only minor changes to existing map lines, though those boundaries will place a two-term Democrat from the suburban Twin Cities squarely in Republican sights.

The new maps will preserve the current structure of Minnesota's eight seats in Congress - three safe Democratic seats around Minneapolis and St. Paul, four safe Republican seats around the rural parts of the state and a swing district east and south of the Twin Cities.

That swing district, held by Rep. Angie Craig (D), takes in the most changes after a decade of population growth. Craig, who first won a swing seat in the 2018 midterm elections, will surrender tens of thousands of voters from Goodhue and Wabasha counties, south and east of the Twin Cities, in exchange for Le Sueur County, south and west of Minneapolis.

All three counties favored former President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, though the net effect appears to move more Trump voters out of Craig's district than into it. Craig's new district would have favored President Biden by a 52.4 percent to 45.2 percent margin in 2020, according to statistics from Dave's Redistricting App, a commonly used political mapping tool.

That is almost identical to the results from Craig's current district, which Biden carried by a 52.4 percent to 45.5 percent margin in 2020.

Craig's district swapped the counties she currently represents with Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R), who holds a seat on the state's southern border with Iowa. Le Suere County is currently in Hagedorn's district.

Craig will face a rematch against Tyler Kistner (R), a Marine Corps veteran who came within 2.3 percentage points of beating her in 2020.

That year, a candidate for the Legal Marijuana Now Party, Adam Charles Weeks, claimed 24,000 votes - more than twice as many as the margin by which Craig won. This year, no third party candidates have filed to challenge Craig.

"The new maps preserve the status quo in Minnesota. That's bad news for Angie Craig, who's running into a buzzsaw because of rising inflation and President Biden's plummeting approval ratings," said Tom Erickson, a Republican strategist with roots in Minnesota politics.

Democrats said they were confident they could hold Craig's seat.

"The DFL Party and our candidates are extremely well-resourced and ready to wage fierce campaigns up and down the ballot in these new districts," said Ken Martin, the chairman of the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. "We look forward to having direct conversations with voters about the future f Minnesota in the months ahead."

The court-drawn maps make few other substantial changes. Rep. Dean Phillips's (D) district west of the Twin Cities will shed some conservative voters in the exurbs, making his seat marginally safer than it was in the last two cycles. The fast-growing neighborhoods that Phillips sheds will be a part of a seat represented by Rep. Tom Emmer (R) for the next decade.

Districts held by Reps. Pete Stauber (R) and Michelle Fischbach (R) will both grow geographically, after slower population growth in the Iron Range and rural farm country in Western Minnesota.

Minnesota came within a hair's breadth of losing a seat in Congress after the 2020 U.S. Census, according to estimates by Election Data Services, a nonpartisan firm. But Census results showed it barely won the 435th and final seat allocated, narrowly edging out New York.

Still, the shifting district lines tell the story of a rapidly changing state in which the balance of partisan power has flipped for both Republicans and the DFL.

Fischbach, a freshman, and Stauber, serving his second term, both succeeded longtime Democratic incumbents who held their seats on the strength of the DFL's appeal to blue collar workers with strong union ties. Hagedorn replaced Democrat Tim Walz, who gave up his seat in Congress to run for governor. Phillips and Craig, both first elected in 2018, displaced two Republicans in suburban districts that were once reliably red outposts.

"It wasn't that long ago that Democrats dominated Minnesota's rural Congressional districts," Erickson said. "Now those three seats are safely held by Republicans."

The five-judge panel, appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court, took over the redistricting process when the state legislature failed to agree on their own maps. Minnesota is the only state in the nation in which the two legislative chambers - the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House - are run by opposite parties.