MN-8: A new district in more ways than one

Today we begin my series by discussing Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District and how it might change in 2012. I’ve written about redistricting before, and the changing nature of the district. Below are three possible redistricting scenarios, each of which would produce a very different situation for northern Minnesota politicos.

Remember the basic composition of the 8th is in three parts: the Republican south (where Cravaack lives) between the Twin Cities and Duluth; the DFL Duluth metro; and the DFL-leaning north, including but not limited to the Iron Range.

Scenario 1: Incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8) will remain in a district relatively similar to the one he has now. I still think that is the most likely outcome. With a relatively sane, bipartisan group of judges assigned to the redistricting task, I see them following the same logic employed by the judicial panel in the 2002 redistricting case. The Red River Valley and the Iron Range/Duluth corridor have vastly different economies and would be better served with separate representation.

This is supported by the fact that the district’s population didn’t change much after the 2010 census. A few small precincts from MN-6, which needs to shed precincts, would easily satisfy the small loss in MN-8.

That said, Republicans have long hoped for a northern Minnesota district above an east-west line. With longtime Rep. Jim Oberstar out of the picture, and Rep. Collin Peterson closer to retirement and out of the majority, there are many forces – mostly, though not entirely Republican – emboldened to push the Great Northern Solution. This would bring us to …

Scenario 2: Something similar to the Republican redistricting plan is enacted, placing Cravaack as the incumbent in a new solidly Republican MN-7 which includes his home in the metro exurbs, St. Cloud and a wide swath of western Minnesota. This would push Rep. Collin Peterson in MN-7 over to the Range and Duluth, areas he’s never represented and a prospect he’s publically rejected.

It’s been reported that this is the scenario that Cravaack might prefer. As redistricting enters its judicial phase, this could be a dangerous wish for Cravaack because …

Scenario 3: In an objective, nonpartisan process Cravaack as likely to be drawn in with nearby Rep. Michelle Bachmann in the 6th as he is to receive a fresh, Republican-leaning 7th district. This is now a somewhat more legitimate possibility with Bachmann running for president. The sixth is a district that Cravaack could win easily, but it could put him in awkward situation if the Bachmann presidential campaign fizzles and she decides to run for Congress again.

DFLers would love this scenario because it’d leave Peterson in MN-7, a district that only he could keep blue, and an open seat in a DFL-leaning MN-8.

For the reason that Republicans would love Scenario 2 and DFLers would love Scenario 3, I conclude that Scenario 1 is most likely to be favored by the judicial panel. If so, MN-8 will be competitive and lively, a strong pickup opportunity for the Democrats but winnable for Cravaack.

Join me tomorrow for two posts about the candidates in the race, including Rep. Cravaack and his announced DFL opponents.


  1. I would say the western, particularly south western, portion of the district leans Republican. Areas like Crow Wing and Morrison Counties are strongly pro-life and as the DFL increasingly spurns those who aren’t willing to declare unborn children as expendable the Republicans will likely consolidate their position in that part of the district.

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