“Fate brought me to the opportunity”
Rep. Mary Jo McGuire
April 5, 2002*
Without a doubt the legislator who is most cursed by the fate of redistricting is Mary Jo McGuire. She is a longtime Falcon Heights resident who values her ties to her community. It was this deep commitment to community that spurred her to take on what appeared to be an impossible challenge in 1988 when she was encouraged to challenge a popular incumbent. Just as she announced her candidacy, that popular incumbent unexpectedly passed away. She still faced a difficult challenge, but fate smiled upon her in that election.
McGuire’s fate in open seat elections are far better than her fate in judicially decided redistricting. In 2002 she faced her first judicially determined redistricting plan that paired her with longtime friend and fellow DFL woman legislator, Alice Hausman. Maguire did the gracious thing and stepped aside. One of the risks for legislators when they leave the decision to the courts is the fact that the courts give very little consideration to the residency of incumbent legislators. Maybe that’s the punishment for a legislature that cannot compromise. In 2002 the five judge panel combined 54 legislators. The House had 36 incumbents matched in the newly drawn district with the creation of 18 open seats. The Senate had 18 incumbents paired against each other with 9 open seats.
Again in 2012, the legislature was not able to get their work done by the deadline of Tuesday of this week for a new redistricting plan. They again were punished for their inability to complete their work with several incumbents being matched in the newly drawn district. This decade’s panel was a little bit less severe by only combining 48 incumbents of the 201 legislators. There were 30 members paired in the House and 16 members in the Senate. Most observers have indicated that the redistrict plan was balanced. It did not appear that the plan gave any significant advantage to either party in the upcoming election. This election will come down, as it should be, to which party fields the best candidates in each of the communities.
In a twist of fate one of those combined legislators was the newly elected Senator Mary Jo McGuire. After Ellen Anderson was appointed to the Public Utilities Commission, her leaving left an open Senate seat that encompassed Maguire’s beloved community of Falcon Heights. Last year Maguire won handily in the special election to fill that seat. Under the new redistricting map, Maguire again suffered an unfortunate fate by being paired with Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville). They’ve indicated that they are going to try to work things out and avoid any nasty endorsement battles, but no decision has been made as of yet. Both these senators have been strong supporters of Minnesota’s great outdoors and their combination guarantees the loss of a good friend to Conservation Minnesota.
There are a couple of other matchups that were very disappointing for the conservation community. The new House District 5A in northern Minnesota pairs up two House members that Conservation Minnesota Voter Fund has endorsed in the past. Republican Capital Investment chair Larry Howes of Walker has been paired in the same district with Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji. Both have been champions of conservation in their communities. The district probably tilts a little bit better for Persell.
The newly created House District 41A combines Rep. Tom Tilberry, DFL-Fridley with Rep. Kate Knuth, DFL-New Brighton. Tilberry has more seniority and has indicated his desire to seek reelection. Knuth has been a rising star in the area of environment and energy. Knuth told MPR “Redistricting is a time where people reassess their personal futures, but I would like to do that in the context of my community and my state.” Tilberry has been a reliable vote on conservation issues, but like the Maguire and Marty combination, will result in the loss of a good legislator.
Whether the legislature has learned its lesson about testing fate in redistricting will not be known for another 10 years.
*Session Weekly, volume 19, number 10, April 5, 2002. p. 14