New legislative maps slice through communities: Como Avenue is boundary for the new District 66A and 64A

Como Avenue was used as a border to divide the new legislative districts 66A and 64A, dividing the St. Paul neighborhood of St. Anthony Park into two districts. If State Reps. Alice Hausman (left) and Erin Murphy both win election in the fall, Murphy would represent St. Anthony Park residents living south of Como and Hausman would represent those north of the avenue. (Photo by Lori Hamilton)

Until recently, north and south St. Anthony Park shared everything—a name, two commercial districts, a couple of schools, similar political and demographic profiles and a comfortable relationship with long-term Minnesota District 66B State Rep. Alice Hausman.

Not anymore. As a result of the Minnesota legislative redistricting plan announced in February, Hausman’s district has been radically redrawn. If the majority of voters in St. Anthony Park continue to vote DFL as they have in the past, next year most of the area will be represented by Assistant House Minority Leader Erin Murphy, the District 64A incumbent.

When Hausman faces the voters in November, she will be running in the new district 66A, which will extend north through Falcon Heights and parts of Roseville and will contain only a small triangle of land north of Como Avenue in her traditional St. Anthony Park stronghold.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Lesch will run for re-election in a redrawn District 66B, which will contain parts of Como Park currently represented by Hausman. For Lesch, a 10-year legislative veteran, the next election could be a kind of homecoming. “I used to live in south Como Park,” he says. “When I first ran [for office] I had to move. Now I could move back to my old neighborhood. It’s familiar territory to me.”

Three-term veteran Murphy, 51, hopes to strike a note of continuity with her new district. “Alice Hausman has been a guide and a mentor,” she says. “I’m going to work with Alice to get to know the [St. Anthony Park] issues.” The Summit Hill resident is not without her own connection to the area. In 1988, when Murphy first moved to the state from her native Wisconsin, she lived in a part of St. Anthony Park that she will represent next year.

Commenting on the plan that has so radically changed her district, Hausman, who has served in the Minnesota Legislature since 1990, says, “What is confusing … is that the people who drew the lines didn’t look at communities of interest. They used major streets [for dividing lines].”

February’s plan was the product of a special judicial panel appointed last summer because the Republican-dominated Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton failed to reach an agreement on a new legislative map. Redistricting is required every 10 years to account for demographic shifts revealed by the once-a-decade U.S. Census.

Hausman says she is sorry to lose the close connections with her St. Anthony Park constituents. “You spend a lot of time with people and they become close friends,” she says. Her new district—although still largely DFL territory—has a lower percentage of voters who consistently lean Democratic. If there’s an upside to the new plan, Hausman says she will be delighted for the chance to represent the district of Rep. Mindy Greiling of Roseville, who announced her retirement before the redistricting plan was made public. “She and I are very close friends and colleagues,” says Hausman. “We’ve worked on a lot of issues together.”

No such satisfactory outcome is available to two other normally normally close political allies. Redistricting has forced State Sen. John Marty of Roseville and Mary Jo McGuire of Falcon Heights into a contest for the new District 66, covering Roseville, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, part of Como Park and the small wedge of St. Anthony Park that is north of Como Avenue. Marty describes the prospect of running against his “friend of many years” as “no fun.”

“We’re both very disappointed,” he says.

For McGuire, it is a bit of déjà vu. She served in the House from 1989 to 2002, when redistricting combined her district with Hausman’s. McGuire stepped aside. She ran one year ago in a special election for the state Senate seat being vacated by Ellen Anderson and won.

“I am absolutely committed to remaining the senator,” McGuire says, but notes, “[John] and I both agreed to seek and abide by the DFL endorsement, so whoever wins the endorsement will be going on to November.”

McGuire points out that she is one of “only 10 pro-choice women in the Senate. With redistricting, we are in danger of losing more.”

Marty cites his ambition for universal health care as a major reason for running. “If we [the DFL] take back the Senate, I’ll be chair of the Health and Human Services Committee,” he says. “I want to make sure that everyone in Minnesota has healthcare.” When it comes to good health, Marty has some kind words for those he hopes will be among his future constituents. Noting the “critical engagement” and “thoughtfulness” of voters in the communities that will make up the new District 66, Marty wonders if that might be an index of health and longevity. “I keep noticing that average age of the Bugle obits is around 90,” he says.

Marty and McGuire probably agree on most issues—never more so than when they talk about the importance of running a positive campaign. “I have no intention of running a negative campaign,” says McGuire. Marty adds, “Democracy is worth more than cheap campaign [tactics]. I am absolutely positive this will be a civil race.”

Starting next year, all of St. Anthony Park south of Como Avenue will be part of Senate District 64.

Sen. Richard Cohen, the current District 64 incumbent, describes his political differences with Hausman and McGuire as “minimal” and says that he wasn’t surprised by changes brought by redistricting. “I was expecting the map to go north,” he says. Cohen, who lives in Highland Park, maintains a law practice in the Midway Commons complex on University Avenue. At 61, he looks back on a legislative career that extends more than three decades.

Cohen says he is still learning about the new areas of his district, but adds, “My sense is that St. Anthony Park—like the rest of District 64—isn’t a district that has the strong socio-economic needs of a Frogtown, for example.” He’s chosen an old-fashioned way to learn more about what he hopes will be his future constituency: “I’m looking forward to knocking on every door in St. Anthony Park.”

Come 2013, Alice Hausman will no longer be the legislative voice of much of St. Anthony Park and Como Park, but for now she has the last word. In an email announcement to constituents, she emphasized that the new district lines do not go into effect until after the next election, stating, “Right now, I am committed to the constituents I am honored to serve in District 66B.”