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Literature in a Hurry: Redistricting brings election excitement

Kim Ukura

I didn't think Tuesday was going to be a very exciting day.

Sure, I knew that the five-judge panel tasked with redrawing Minnesota's legislative district maps was set to release the results at 1 p.m., but I didn't expect there to be too many surprises for those of us here in Stevens County.

As it turns out, I was completely wrong.

Stevens County is now in Senate District 12 and House District 12A. But the more exciting part is that, as a result of the way the new district lines are drawn, District 12 doesn't have an incumbent state senator.

Our current senator, Bill Ingebrigtsen, is now in District 8. State legislative candidates have to live in the district they plan to run for election in, and Ingebrigtsen's Alexandria address puts him just outside our district.

On Friday afternoon, Ingebrigtsen officially announced that he'll run in District 8 in the 2012 election, leaving District 12 a wide-open race.

Candidate filing opens on May 22, but I expect we'll get some news about potential candidates very, very soon.

On the other hand, the population shift from rural to suburban living has created some challenges for rural legislators.

Instead of representing only about two and a half counties (Stevens, Grant and part of Douglas), Rep. Torrey Westrom will now be representing an area of more than seven counties in District 12A (should he decide to run again). Although the population of Westrom's new district is similar to the population of the rest of the districts across the state, he'll likely be stretched thinner trying to learn about the issues facing constituents in such a big area of the state.

The expansion of rural representation had impacts at the national level as well. Rep. Collin Peterson's Seventh Congressional District still covers most of the western third of the state, but now has additional counties along the southern edge.

Still, we're lucky that Stevens County is still intact in the new maps. Our northern neighbor, Douglas County, wasn't so lucky -- the county is now part of to Senate districts and three House districts. That's a tricky way to be divided and split from your neighbors, for everyone involved.

While I've admitted before that I'm a government nerd, most of the time that geekiness doesn't extend to the elections. I'm much more interested in what politicians do after they get elected, rather than what they do in the process of getting into office.

But there's something exciting about seeing the first pieces of how the election puzzle could chance how our state government looks next year.

Obviously, it will take some time to learn what impact the new maps will have locally and at the state and national levels. But no matter what, I think the maps show we're going to have an exciting election season this year. Stay tuned.