The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 22, 2012

Mankato regional legislators will face each other

By Mark Fischenich
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Two area Republican law­makers will see their careers end before the Nov. 6 general election ballots are printed under new political boundaries released by a state judicial panel Tuesday.

Unless they pack up and move their residences, freshman Sen. Al DeKruif, R-Elysian, would be matched in an Aug. 14 primary election against 10-year-veteran Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.

And five-term Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, would be paired against two-term Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-St. James, on the same day.

Cornish said he will definitely be running this year, and DeKruif is strongly considering seeking a second term. Rosen and Torkelson didn’t return calls seek­ing comment.

“I’m not ready to retire, so I’ll find a way to run,” Cornish said.

“And if I had to run against one of my own, I probably would.”

DeKruif said he hasn’t spoken to Rosen about her plans but isn’t ruling out a primary election contest.

“I’m not sure if she’s going to run or not,” DeKruif said. “I believe in my abilities, I believe in my voting record, and I believe (Republicans) down there would believe I’ve been a pretty good senator.”

It could get even more complex, though, with both House and Senate seats up for election this year.

Cornish said he would consider running for the Senate against DeKruif if Rosen chose to retire, which would leave Torkelson unchallenged in a primary election.
Other south-central Minnesota lawmakers continue to have a district of their own in the new maps, drawn by a special redistricting panel of judges assigned to the task by the Minnesota Supreme Court when Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republicancontrolled Legislature couldn’t agree on where to draw the lines. Redistricting is required after every U.S.

Census to ensure that the state’s 67 Senate districts and 134 House districts each have essentially equal population.

Rural counties south and west of Mankato have seen stagnant or declining populations, which caused their legislative districts to expand in size to encompass the 39,600 residents needed for a House district — twice that number for a Senate district.
Brown County is now in a Senate district that stretches west to the South Dakota border and extends north to within striking distance of North Dakota.

Senate District 23 begins at the edge of Mankato and goes south to the Iowa border, east to the edge of Waseca and west to Jackson. The changes required in surrounding districts had an impact on Mankato, as well.

Most of Mankato, along with Skyline and Eagle Lake, will be in the new District 19B, which includes the home of Democratic Rep. Kathy Brynaert.

But about 4,000 Mankatoans will be carved off into the new House District 19A, which also includes all of Nicollet County and a bit of Le Sueur County, including Kasota. Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, is a resident of District 19A.

Brynaert would have preferred to see Mankato kept whole in a single House district, but she said that was difficult with the city growing in population and the surrounding countryside losing people.

“Nobody gets a perfect map,” she said. “I think this is a pretty decent map considering the challenges.”

Those House districts will make up Senate District 19, the seat Sen. Kathy Sheran will be looking to claim in November, so Mankato, North Mankato and St.

Peter will continue a decades-long tradition of sharing a senate district.

Now Eagle Lake and Kasota will be part of that grouping as well.

“ Which I think makes a lot of sense because they’re part of the economic life and foundation of the Mankato area,” Sheran said.

Sheran and Morrow, if re-elected, will no longer represent Gaylord and other parts of Sibley County. All of Sibley, which would be represented by Glencoe Republican Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen if he wins re-election, will now be part of House and Senate districts that include McLeod and Meeker counties.

Far eastern Faribault County will be separated from the Mankato area politically in the future, joining districts to the east that include Albert Lea and Austin. The city of Waseca will continue to be pared with Owatonna. And Le Sueur County will be connected to Northfield and exurban communities in southern Scott County.

Along with having a major effect on the future of many incumbent lawmakers, the new lines also impact people who have been considering challenges to incumbent lawmakers. For some, Tuesday’s news provides an answer about who they would be running against and will result in announcements of runs for office in the days ahead.

For others, it means the end of their campaigns. St. Clair City Councilman Chris Cousins, for instance, was hoping to be the Republican challenger to Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato.

Instead of being put in the same district as Sheran, Cousins wound up in a district that includes two fellow- Republican incumbent senators — Rosen and DeKruif.

“It looks like I’m out,” Cousins said of his run, which he tentatively began in October. “... I definitely wanted to get up there and make a difference. But I’m not ruling anything out for my future.”

And lawmakers emphasized that they’ll still focus on existing districts rather than future ones, particularly during the ongoing legislative session.

“I’m still representing (the current) 23B until the end of the year,” Brynaert said.

Still, DeKruif said lawmakers were notably absent in meeting rooms when the new maps were released at 1 p.m.. He said his prediction of last month proved true — that redistricting would be as distracting as a car crash at the Capitol.

“ That’s pretty much what it was,” he said. “ The committee was pretty sparse at 1 p.m.”