8th District grows to the west, south in redrawn maps

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Northeastern Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District now stretches farther to the west and southeast as a result of updated maps released Tuesday.

The new district map, drawn by the court-appointed Minnesota Special Redistricting Panel, removes Morrison County from the 8th District. It adds northern Washington County in the Twin Cities area. In north-central Minnesota, it adds all of Clearwater, Lake of the Woods, and Mahnomen counties, the rest of Beltrami County that was not already in the district, and parts of Becker and Hubbard counties.

Cities added to the 8th District include Bemidji and Forest Lake, while Little Falls has been moved to the 7th District. The 8th District also now includes all of Minnesota’s reservations, adding Red Lake and White Earth.

"This change respects the sovereignty of the American Indian tribes and the request of tribal leaders and Minnesotans across the state to afford those tribes an opportunity to join their voices," the panel wrote in its order.

The 8th District’s geographic area expanded because its population did not grow as fast other parts of the state over the past decade. Political districts are required to be roughly equal in population and the 8th District needed to add more than 37,000 people to equal other districts in the state, based in 2020 census data.

It is currently represented by Congressman Pete Stauber (R), who said it has been an honor to serve the current constituents of the 8th.

"Moving forward, I welcome the opportunity in 2023 to serve residents of Minnesota’s new 8th district and continue championing our way of life while pushing back against Washington’s runaway spending, skyrocketing inflation, nonsensical calls to defund our police, and Joe Biden’s continued assault on our small businesses and the middle class," Stauber said in a statement.

The panel of five judges, appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, released the new maps after the legislature failed to agree on its own plan by the deadline set in state law.

LINK: New maps for Minnesota congressional and legislative districts

Four groups had submitted competing proposals that varied drastically. One would have extended the district to include a small part of St. Cloud while another would have extended it deeper into the northern Twin Cities suburbs. Another would have removed east-central Minnesota completely and extended the district all the way to the North Dakota border.

The panel’s order states that its plan "continues to respect the differences between the northwest…and the northeast" by not moving all of northern Minnesota into one district.

None of the submitted plans had proposed moving Washington County into the 8th District.

The panel wrote that northern Washington County "shares the eighth district’s rural character and aligns with its ‘woods and water’ geography and economy." The adjacent Chisago Lakes area was already in the 8th District.

The 8th District was solidly reliable for Democrats for decades, held by longtime Congressmen John Blatnik and Jim Oberstar, but has been considered a swing district for the past decade due to voting shifts on the Iron Range and growth in Republican-leaning areas of the southern and western portions of the district.

In 2010, Republican Chip Cravaack shocked the political world by unseating Oberstar. Two years later, Cravaack lost to Democrat Rick Nolan, who served for six years until retiring. Republican Pete Stauber then won the seat in 2018 and was re-elected in 2020.

The district had previously been almost evenly divided between the Duluth and Minneapolis TV markets, since east-central Minnesota and the Brainerd Lakes area receive their TV from the Twin Cities. The westward expansion will add several counties in the Fargo TV market to the district.