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Published February 21 2012

New district changes Minnesota legislative race

MOORHEAD – Two incumbent area legislators will need to run against each other in a newly created district released Tuesday by a five-judge panel.

Current District 9B state Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, and District 2A Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, are now in District 4B, according to the new maps.

Since both men are in the same party – both also educators by occupation – Marquart said they will have talk to one another about how to move forward in the November election.

“I was a bit surprised with the redistricting. I knew that was a possibility Kent and I could be paired,” Marquart said.

Eken could not be reached for comment.

A five-judge panel Tuesday redrew legislative district maps, pairing 46 of the state’s 201 lawmakers and creating 23 seats with no incumbent.

The new maps are required every 10 years to comply with U.S. Supreme Court and Minnesota Constitution requirements of equal representations among districts.

The court’s redistricting plan changes District 9’s boundaries to include Clay and Norman counties instead of Clay, Wilkin and Traverse counties.

DFL Sen. Keith Langseth, formerly representing District 9, said the move to create District 4 is good for his party because Norman County tends to vote more DFL than Wilkin and Traverse counties.

“As far as the Senate district is concerned, it’s a more Democratic district than it has been,” he said. “But, we do have the problem of having one too many candidates. We’ll work that out somehow.”

Marquart said losing Wilkin and Traverse counties is bittersweet.

“It’s like moving away and leaving your friends behind,” Marquart said. “The upside is you have new areas and new people to meet.”

District 4A (formerly 9A) will also see some change. If re-elected, Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, would continue to represent the city of Moorhead and Oakport Township, but the surrounding townships will no longer be in his district.

“It makes sense,” Lanning said of his new district. “I knew my district was going to shrink. I’ve had 11 townships and 10 of those are no longer in my district, which is something we expected would be the case.”

Redistricting judges used Moorhead as an example of how they decided to draw lines.

“In the northwest, the Red River Valley continues to be placed in as few legislative districts as is practicable,” the judges wrote, keeping Moorhead and Detroit Lakes in a single Senate district.

Oakport Township is to be annexed by Moorhead, so the judges said they put the two together, even though that put more people in the House district than otherwise would be ideal. They said that was a good move so the city could be kept intact.

Forum reporter Don Davis contributed to this report. Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530