Change coming for state lawmakers serving Columbus, Linwood

Redistricting puts Tom Hackbarth back in this area

Clint Riese
Staff Writer

When it comes to the concept of racinos, the representation of Columbus and Linwood in the state House of Representatives may soon go from one extreme to the other.

The forthcoming legislative redistricting implementation could be bringing a familiar face back to those eastern Anoka County communities. And it is one that is staunchly pro-racino. Current District 48A Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar) will seek election in the newly drawn District 31B this November.

Columbus and Linwood are currently represented by House 52A Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake), a critic of the racino concept.

The new House district will encompass an area including all of Linwood, Columbus, East Bethel, Ham Lake and parts of Andover and Oak Grove. No current House members besides Hackbarth live inside the district boundaries. The eighth-term legislator spent three terms in the 1990s representing Columbus and Linwood before the last redistricting process removed those areas from his district.

Hackbarth is a longtime racino supporter and is the chief author of a bill which seeks to implement racino as a means to pay for stadiums for the Minnesota Vikings and the St. Paul Saints. He touts his as the only stadium bill which uses a proven source of revenue. The legislation is currently parked in House and Senate committees.

A different racino bill was rejected 8-5 in a Senate committee on Monday.

Hackbarth said he monitors local sentiment toward the racino concept and finds it to be overwhelmingly positive, even when it is tied to a Vikings stadium.

“I really thought in the beginning of this session that it had a chance, but people started going in different directions trying to avoid the racino concept altogether,” he said.

Hackbarth held a meet-and-greet in Ham Lake last week and ran into many supporters from Linwood and Columbus.

“I can’t wait to get back there,” he said. “It’s been a great area for me.”

Senate Primary Possible

The Senate outlook is a bit murkier for Columbus and Linwood. Two current Republican senators may duel in an October primary in the new District 31, but current District 52 Sen. Ray Vandeveer (R-Forest Lake) will not be one of them. In the new Senate district, Columbus and Linwood will be separated from Forest Lake and positioned along the far eastern edge of a district including northern Anoka County, southern Isanti County and eastern Sherburne County.

First-term Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) of District 49 will seek the party endorsement in the new district, but may have competition in current District 48 Sen. Michael Jungbauer (R-East Bethel), as both are drawn into the same boundary.

Even so, it may not come down to a primary. Benson said she would abide by the party’s endorsement. Jungbauer, a third-term senator, did not respond to the newspaper’s request for an interview.

Benson said she would consider supporting racino legislation, but only under the right circumstances.

“Our state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem, so if racino was part of an overall tax reform, it wouldn’t keep me from voting for a good bill,” she said.

Benson has lived in Anoka County for over 15 years

“I work well with the leadership in Anoka County, so I look forward to working with even more of it,” she said.