District lines unclear, candidates running for Minnesota legislature anyway
And some may not even live in the neighborhood they hope to represent.
Matt Norri of Virginia, Minnesota, recently announced he was running as the Republican candidate for what is now House District 6B, saying he wanted to help protect mining and logging in northern Minnesota.
But the district Norri wants to represent, which is currently held by Representative Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora, could be very different when new maps are finalized early next year to accommodate population changes. Still, Norri has said he will be a candidate no matter what.
“Either way, I’m really comfortable with the whole area, and I feel like we’re on the same page here,” said Norri.
Justin Stofferahn of White Bear Township is a recently announced candidate for the DFL in what is now House District 38B. It is the seat that the titular representative of the LDF, Ami Wazlawik, is leaving at the end of her mandate next year. Stofferahn was an unsuccessful candidate last year in the larger Senate district. He acknowledged the uncertainty of entering now, but said it was important to launch his campaign.
“This area is going to be heavily contested in a general election,” Stofferahn said. “So we want to make sure we have the time to start putting together the kind of campaign it takes to win. “
The same uncertainty applies to incumbents who want to run for re-election. The 201 legislative seats will be on the ballot, 134 in the House and 67 in the Senate. They could all have new limits. And the law says Minnesota lawmakers must live in the districts they represent.
Representative Dan Wolgamott, DFL-St. Cloud, who is leading candidate recruitment efforts for House Democrats this cycle, said he knows some candidates are waiting to see the new cards before announcing their plans, but others are ready now. His advice?
“If you know you want to run, go ahead, run,” Wolgamott said. “Go ahead and start fundraising, start knocking on doors, start hosting community town halls and start connecting with people.”
Wolgamott does not wait. He plans to announce his own campaign plans in a few weeks.
“I can’t control the lines, but I can control how hard I’m working to throw for St. Cloud on Capitol Hill,” Wolgamott said.
The legislature has until mid-February to approve new maps or a panel of court-appointed judges will do the job. And after that, many applicants will check if they live where they think they live.
Ten years ago, the redistribution placed Republican Rep. Paul Torkelson in the same southern Minnesota home district as his outgoing Republican colleague Tony Cornish. Both lawmakers wanted to represent themselves. Torkelson ended up moving from Watonwan County to neighboring Brown County and a House District with an open seat.
“I was matched with the Cornish representative in the district where my farm is located,” Torkelson said. “But the district that I represented, for the most part, was sitting there without an incumbent. So politically it was easy. Personally, it was a little more difficult.
Torkelson, who is serving his seventh term, is the Republican leader of the House redistribution committee. He doesn’t have a problem with candidates announcing before the cards are finished.
“If you’re interested in an elective term, sometimes it’s good to start early and just assume you’re going to find a ring for your hat,” Torkelson said.