Redistricting leaves county’s House district without an incumbentCarlton County is now part of a new legislative district, House District 11A – which also includes some of northern Pine County – following Tuesday’s announcement of the state’s redistricting plan. The move will leave the county with no incumbent, since the new district
By: Wendy Johnson/John Myers, Pine Journal
Carlton County is now part of a new legislative district, House District 11A – which also includes some of northern Pine County – following Tuesday’s announcement of the state’s redistricting plan. The move will leave the county with no incumbent, since the new district ends just a few miles north of where incumbent DFL Rep. Bill Hilty currently lives in Finlayson.
“I’ve known for some time that it was likely to the point of inevitability that I would lose Cloquet,” said Hilty the day following the announcement of the redistricting. “I really didn’t think I would lose all of Carlton County.”
Hilty has held the office of Minnesota Representative for the past 16 years, representing a substantial part of Carlton County for the entire time, and including Cloquet for the past 10 years.
“Carlton County has been the heart of my district the whole time,” said Hilty, “and I’ve gotten to know a lot of good people there and learned to understand the dynamics of the district. I think there are a lot of people in the district who have shared my philosophies, and hopefully I’ve leant additional understanding to a number of key issues.”
If Hilty should decide to run for office in his new district, he will likely be pitted against Republican Roger Crawford of Mora for the new House District 11B.
“I have a lot of things to digest first, so I’m not ready to make any commitments,” said Hilty. “There are good reasons and bad reasons to run for office, and I want to make sure mine are all good if I decide to run.”
Hilty said he is optimistic that whoever becomes the new representative in District 11A will maintain the political balance now in place.
“In terms of indexes,” said Hilty, “the district is strongly DFL and I think this is a fairly safe DFL seat. I don’t see the likelihood of that changing.”
Hilty added the redistricting change will be bittersweet for him.
“I will miss having close contact with the people of Carlton County,” he concluded.
The changes won’t affect district DFL incumbent Sen. Tony Lourey of Kerrick, however, since his residence remains within the District 11A guidelines.
The redrawn lines for legislative districts, required after every U.S. Census to keep the population of each district about the same, expand some northern Minnesota districts and change many others.
Unlike members of Congress who can live anywhere they want, candidates for the state legislature must live in the district they run in for at least six months.
“Across the northern region, there’s going to be quite a bit of change,” said Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL Hermantown, the region’s longest-serving legislator and the ranking DFLer on the House Redistricting Committee. “We have matchups in places we haven’t seen in years.’’
Statewide, among 201 districts “we’re going to see at least 30 competitive districts, either open or incumbents paired up,” Murphy said. “If people wanted change, they’re sure going to get it.”
Murphy loses the last bits of Carlton County she had represented and gains one township in Lake County in the new House District 3B that wraps around Duluth.
“It’s a day of mourning for me,” said Murphy the day following the redistricting announcement.
Murphy said she had almost all of Carlton County in her district when she was first elected to the legislature, though most recently she only represented the portion of it that included Scanlon, Thomson and Thomson Township.
“I will miss all of the wonderful things happening in Carlton County,” said Murphy. “The residents have been loyal and true about sharing their opinions in a positive way about the issues that matter to them.”
Murphy said it was an honor for her to have worked in Carlton County on such issues as the transition of the state hospital in Moose Lake into the prison and the addition of the new building there. She also has a great deal of pride in helping pave the way for Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and “seeing how many lives that has changed,” as well as all of the bonding projects that have gotten funded while she has represented the district.
“I think the river is also a lot cleaner than it was 36 years ago,” she added.
On a personal note, Murphy said she will miss the close associations she has developed there, saying she always buys lefse at Christmastime at one of the local churches, goes to the dentist in Cloquet, and has her car serviced at the Cloquet dealership where she first bought it.
“It has been such an honor for me to get to know the people of this county,” said Murphy. “It’s the end of an era for me.”
Regarding the rationale behind the redistricting of the county, both Hilty and Murphy said they believe the court (that determined the redistricting lines) likely listened to the handful of folks who spoke up at the redistricting meeting held at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College earlier this year, stating they believe the county has grown to the point that the county should be united in its legislative district.
The court-ordered and court-drawn redistricting plan comes as the population of Northeastern Minnesota remained mostly flat or shrank some while areas near the Twin Cities grew. That shrinks the geographic size of districts in growing areas and makes them larger in areas with no or slow growth.
The special panel of judges who drew the lines was appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers couldn’t agree on a compromise plan of their own. Each of Minnesota’s state Senate districts has about 79,000 people, twice the number of a state House seat.
“The panel has established and utilized politically neutral redistricting principles that advance the interest of the collective public good and preserve the public’s confidence and perception of fairness in the redistricting process,” the judges wrote in their order.
The judicial panel’s order said that it did not try to protect incumbent legislators: “Election districts do not exist for the benefit of any particular legislator.”
For the most part, the judges kept American Indian reservations in one legislative district.
“At this time, I urge each legislator to take time to fully assess their new district and then move forward on the important issues that matter to all Minnesotans: jobs and the economy,” reflected Murphy. “Bread and butter issues are what constituents care about in each and every legislative district, old or new.”