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Cloudy future: Area lawmakers see district boundaries change

Races this November could feature head-to-head matchups between two local representatives and two sitting senators from the region.

Reps. Larry Howes, R-Walker, and John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, are now in the same district while Sens. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, and Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, also share a district.

Redistricting maps were released Tuesday afternoon by a committee of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Howes, now in his seventh term, faces a markedly different district. His 4B district had included the southern portion of Cass County, including cities such as Walker and Hackensack. He now lives in the 5A District, which includes the northeast and central portion of Cass County, including the entire Leech Lake Reservation.

Persell said it was unsurprising that he and Howes ended up in the same district, noting that two of the previous three redistricting proposals put them together.

Persell said he "absolutely" would seek re-election this fall.

"It looks like my district more than it does his," he said.

Howes could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Carlson vs. Saxhaug?

If they both decide to seek another term, first-termer Carlson would face off against Saxhaug, who was elected to the Senate in 2002 and twice more since then.

The new District 5 is more compact than Carlson's previous District 4. It does not include the southern portion of Cass County and, instead, goes further east into southern Itasca County to include Grand Rapids, where Saxhaug lives.

Carlson could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

District 2 changes

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, all along has said he wasn't going to pay too much attention to redistricting because he couldn't affect the outcome.

On Tuesday, he said the lines are what they are and, if the constituents of the newly defined District 2 want him to represent them, he would be happy to continue working on their behalf.

Skoe's new district no longer includes Norman County, where he has worked on issues, including flooding in the Red River Valley, to represent residents there.

"I've made a lot of friends there," said Skoe, who has served that area since he joined the Senate. Skoe was elected to the House in 1998 and in 2000 and then elected to the Senate in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

The district now will go north to the top of the state, encompassing Lake of the Woods County as well.

"It goes a little ways north, which is just fine," Skoe said. "I know those folks and those issues."

That area is focused on farming, logging and tourism, he said, noting that the issues are similar to those facing Park Rapids, Detroit Lakes and the Bemidji area.

The change to the north will also impact Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, who, too, will cover Lake of the Woods County.

Hancock could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.