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Census Quick Cuts: Minnesota, Tennessee, North Dakota, Alaska Census Quick Cuts: Minnesota, Tennessee, North Dakota, Alaska Census Quick Cuts: Minnesota, Tennessee, North Dakota, Alaska Census Quick Cuts: Minnes...

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Politics

Census Quick Cuts: Minnesota, Tennessee, North Dakota, Alaska

Mark Dayton(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

March 17, 2011
The state's northeastern district -- which Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack won in a surprise over longtime Democratic Rep. James Oberstar in 2010 -- has seen a decline in its union-Democratic Iron Range population (Duluth shrank slightly) while the southern, more conservative part of the district grew, explaining part of Cravaack's win and why it was the only district in the state where President Obama didn't much increase the Democratic vote over Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) performance in 2004. Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson's northwest Minnesota district, which leans Republican, needs to grow as well, but it is unlikely it will be tampered with much as he usually runs well ahead of other Democrats. Democratic Rep. Tim Walz's southern Minnesota district, which is a political toss-up, will also be left more or less alone. Expect the status quo for redistricting. -- Tennessee grew by 11.5 percent in the last decade and kept its eight House seats. Its fastest growth was in Clarksville and Murfreesboro near Nashville, which grew by 29 percent and 58 percent respectively, while Nashville itself grew by 10 percent. On the other hand, Memphis lost population. The state, like much of Appalachia and the inner South, has trended strongly Republican in the last decade, and Republicans won three seats held by Blue Dog Democrats here last fall. They're in control of redistricting for the first time since Reconstruction, and will likely go after the state's remaining Blue Dog Democrat, Rep. Jim Cooper. It may be difficult to make Cooper's Nashville-centered district much more Republican, however, as the city itself is a quarter African American, reliably Democratic and actually grew in the last decade. This was the only district in the state besides Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen's majority-black Memphis district to trend towards Obama. The three districts the GOP won last election have trended strongly Republican in the last decade, and their members are unlikely to face much of a challenge even if their districts don't get much friendlier. Republicans have some leeway to carve up Cooper's district so long as they don't dilute the district's African American percentage, and could theoretically change the map more dramatically without endangering their own incumbents by splitting up Nashville. -- North Dakota grew by almost 5 percent and will continue to have just one House member. Like other Plains and Rocky Mountains states, North Dakota's population has shifted quickly away from farmland and towards the largest towns. The state's fastest growth has been around Fargo, near the Minnesota border, and in the capital of Bismarck, while most of the state's counties lost population. Fargo, the state's largest city, grew by 17 percent and crossed the 100,000 person threshold in the last decade, and Cass County grew by 22 percent. Part of the state's shift has been due to growth in energy industries, which has made the state a bit more conservative. The state's two senators and House member were all Democrats until recently, but the reverse may be true soon: One Senate seat and the House seat both went to Republicans last fall, and Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad's impending retirement will make it harder for Democrats to hold his seat. Still, the state's population remains small enough that voters expect to get to know their candidates and partisan affiliations aren't as strong in local races as interpersonal connections. Conrad and retired Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan won with retail politics and conservative views. Future Democrats could do the same. -- Alaska's population grew by 13 percent but the state remains sparsely populated, with its second largest town, Fairbanks, only having 31,000 inhabitants. The state's native Alaskan population grew slower than the rest of the state and is now 14 percent, while the Hispanic population grew by half and is now 5.5 percent of the state, surpassing Asians to become the second-largest minority group here. The state's growth has largely occurred in and around Anchorage, with the town growing by 12 percent and the borough to the north, Matanuska-Susitna, growing by half. This area includes Sarah Palin's hometown Wasilla, which jumped by 43 percent in the decade to 7800 residents, making it the state's sixth largest town. The state's politics remain unusual, though generally Republican with a libertarian bent: Senator Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign last fall proved both. Democrats (Sen. Mark Begich) as well as Republicans (Palin) have had some success running against the state's political establishment on ethics issues, but local issues in this lightly populated, isolated state will continue to dominate elections. It is unlikely the state's growth will do much to change its political culture.
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