A new set of redistricting maps from Minnesota Senate Republicans would reshape political boundaries around a congressional swing district, giving the party a better shot at taking it back from Democrats.
The proposed maps, released late Friday afternoon, face tough odds of becoming law because of a divided government in St. Paul and limited time for legislators to strike an agreement before a Feb. 15 deadline.
Senate Republican Redistricting Chair Mark Johnson said the maps don't split as many counties, cities and towns as do a set of maps proposed by Democrats in control of the House.
"We weighed many factors and these maps meet the principles and precedent heard in my committee for the redistricting process," said Johnson, R-East Grand Forks.
The Republican plan would expand Minnesota's Second Congressional District to include more exurban and rural territories to the south and west of the Twin Cities, areas that tend to lean conservative.
The First District would continue to span the entire southern border of Minnesota under the GOP plan, maintaining conservative agricultural territory in the southwest corner of the state.
"The parties view the First and Second Congressional districts as the most competitive in the state, and it is not surprising that both parties found ways to increase the chances of their candidates carrying those two seats," said Todd Rapp, a former political director of the DFL party who analyzes redistricting plans.
The DFL plan sheds parts of Goodhue and Wabasha counties in the southern part of the current Second District, making the district more suburban and likely safer for Democrats.
Redistricting is required every decade after the census to redistribute the population evenly between districts. The stakes are high for both parties, with the new maps helping to determine political fortunes for the next decade.
The diverging proposals highlight what's shaping up to be major fight this fall in Minnesota's Second District. Two-term incumbent DFL Rep. Angie Craig fended off a challenge from Republican Tyler Kistner last cycle. Kistner is challenging her again in November, and national Republicans already are targeting the district.
On the legislative side, the Senate Republican maps pair a Republican and a DFL incumbent in three Senate districts. Three districts pair Republican incumbents and six districts pair up DFL incumbents.
In the House, the GOP maps create 15 open seats and four pairings of Republican and Democratic incumbents. Only three districts would feature Republican vs. Republican incumbent pairings, while eight districts would match up DFL incumbents in the House.
Neither map is expected to become a reality. A five judge panel is already in the middle of redrawing new state lines as it has for the last five decades after legislators reached an impasse. The panel is expected to release those maps Feb. 15.
Staff writer Hunter Woodall contributed to this report.