The Geography of Politics

In the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring the nexus between geography and politics in Minnesota.  Along the way, I’ve been developing the hypothesis that the safer a seat becomes for a political party, the more radical its holder will be.


In Part 1, I offer the test case of Minnesota House of Representatives District 64B.  This St. Paul district is safely in the hands of Democrats.  With the long-time incumbent retiring, seven candidates have already announced efforts to win the Democrat endorsement for the open seat.  One of the multitude in the running currently serves the communications director for the ultra-liberal political charity TakeAction Minnesota.  2014 will reveal just how far to the left district 64B will shift.

Safe seats like House District 64B abound for the state’s Democrats—who, though perhaps more numerous than Republicans, are concentrated into relatively few districts.  Districts that lean Republican actually outnumber districts that lean toward the Democrats.  Further, the Democrats’ safe seats are concentrated in the core urban areas of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth.

In Part 2, I examine some empirical evidence for my hypothesis, graphing how much further from the political mainstream incumbents move, the safer their seat becomes.

In 2012, the state’s Democrats recaptured control of the Legislature.  They offered voters in swing suburban districts a value proposition around the idea of socially-moderate, “pro-business” Democrats.  In 2013 Democrats delivered to suburban voters a radical-left agenda orchestrated by party leaders in in safe Minneapolis and St. Paul districts.

The “Geography” series originated in an earlier series, one which examines the bizarre plan of the Met Council regional government to reduce poverty in the metro area by spreading the poor more thinly around the 7-county region.  The relocation of urban low-income citizens may not make them less poor, but it does hold out the possibility of flipping marginal suburban Republican seats toward the Democrats.

Cross-posted and comments welcome at Bill Glahn.