State Sen. Ron Latz has the perfect combination of longevity and name recognition, not to mention a very safe seat to run for re-election from. But when the Minnesota courts rolled out the new maps in mid-February that define legislators’ borders, Latz had an unanticipated problem: Senate DFL Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen was now in his district.
Franzen’s Edina home in District 49 was redrawn into Latz’s St. Louis Park-centric district. The new District 46 forced the two politicians into a decision: compete against each other in a primary, or one of them step aside and not run for re-election. Latz will run for the seat, while Franzen will step aside.
“I’m not going to go into my conversations with her, but we did have some conversations,” Latz said. “I waited until Friday to reaffirm the intentions I had announced last fall to seek re-election.”
David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University, said that he was surprised by Franzen’s decision, but that the new district lines favored Latz.
“There’s far more of that seat in Latz’s senate that would have been for hers,” he said. “She would have been almost running as a challenger against Latz given the fact that it’s so much more of his district.”
Latz said that the direction the district shifted surprised him, picking up territory to the south of St. Louis Park, rather than north towards Golden Valley or the west, as it has in past redistricting. He said about 20 percent of the new district is Edina, making a potential primary more of a home game for him. But he was surprised that Franzen opted not to run.
“I was really hoping there was a way that we could both continue to serve together in the Senate,” he said. “I have a great deal of respect for her. I like her personally. She’s done a terrific job as the leader of our caucus, and it was a very unfortunate situation. She had to make a very personal decision about what was best for her and her family. And I respect that.”
Rep. Frank Hornstein, who is the longest-serving state representative out of the city of Minneapolis, also was facing a primary against a formidable opponent in Rep. Jamie Long, who chairs the Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee. Hornstein chose the option to move within the borders of his new district, rather than retire or face a contested primary.
“I’ve lived that lived in that area before, and if I was to have any kind of change with redistricting, I mean, this is the best,” Hornstein said. He said this was the second dramatic situation he faced after redistricting, but 10 years ago he went through the primary. He added that retirement from the house wasn’t an option he was ready to entertain.
“I decided to run back in November and redistricting doesn’t change that. There are several really important issues that I’m in the middle of right now,” said Hornstein, who chairs the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee. “I have a lot of seniority, particularly on transportation issues. I think it’s really important to bring that to the table. I had a really successful year last year working on a bipartisan basis on a really good transportation bill.
“We have a critical couple of years now with the new infrastructure bill. It’s a really critical time for infrastructure.”
Willing to move for open seats
Bonnie Westlin had unsuccessfully challenged Republican Sen. Warren Limmer in both 2016 and 2020. But with the borders of her Maple Grove district changing and a seat opening to the south, Westlin will be moving to Plymouth to challenge for the open District 42 senate seat.
“After having looked at the map, it just appeared that I was no longer the best fit to run in this seat,” she said of the district that she’ll be moving out of. “I talked to an awful lot of people, including some current legislators to get some advice. I’ve been contemplating moving since last probably last summer. And then I just decided, maybe I should wait for the maps to come out just in case.”
Westlin will challenge for the DFL nomination at the District 42 convention next month, and then possibly a primary election in August. Much of the area had been represented by Sen. Ann Johnson Stewart, who – because of where she lives – will fight to represent district to the southwest of her current district.
Moving to the new area isn’t a concern for Westlin. She’s lived in the northwest suburbs for many years, and her oldest son graduated from Robbinsdale Armstrong High School, which is part of the new District 42.
“There’s a lot of crossover in terms of the Maple Grove activists and the Plymouth activists,” she said. “I have a lot of deep relationships with a lot of organizations that will come with me wherever I go. And those are people who support affordable health care for all. They support fully funding our public schools and making sure that we get through this crisis that we’ve had. I think that the issues remain similar.”
Westlin said that in the days following the new maps being released, she said that she received some advice from a sitting legislator.
“She said, ‘You know, you believe you have something to contribute. That’s why you’re running. And it doesn’t actually matter what the district number is that you’re running from,’” Westin recalled. “And I really took that to heart. And I’m continuing to run in this new district because I do believe I have something to offer.”
Phillips’ CD3 shifts east
Congressman Dean Phillips will get a shot to represent a new neighborhood after this fall’s elections after Hopkins was moved from the 5th District to the 3rd District. The southwestern part of CD3 – Chanhassen, Chaska, and Victoria, will move to the 6th District. Phillips also picked up a piece of Anoka in the north metro.
“I’ve loved working with the people and communities I represent in Carver County and will miss them,” Phillips said in a statement. “Representation begins with listening, and I cannot wait to meet the people and communities new to the Third District and represent their perspectives and priorities.”
Schultz said that the incumbent parties were seemingly protected in the redistricting process.
“Phillips comes out good, but my sense is, in general, is that if you look at the eight congressional districts in Minnesota, the Republican ones came out a little bit more Republican, the Democrats came out a little bit more Democrat,” he said.
How the districts get made
Every ten years Minnesota’s legislators know that the districts they represent are going to be shaken up based on the census results. Minnesota’s legislature is tasked with redrawing the districts, but if they are unable to come to a consensus – or don’t even try, as was the case this year – a state judiciary panel creates the map.
“Redistricting creates awkward situations. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it works,” Latz said. “The legislature is empowered under the Constitution to write our own redistricting laws. And we fail to do so it goes in the hands of the judicial panel. It’s been that way for, I think, at least the last four redistricting processes. Maybe longer.”
Sen. Sandy Pappas, who represents St. Paul, said the heart of her district was largely kept intact, but there were losses and gains around the edges of District 65. But she lamented the women who are losing their seats due to the redistricting.
“It’s hard to lose women,” said Pappas, who will be running for her 11th term in the Senate. “And I’m concerned about representation from people of color.”