SOUTHWEST COLORADO – The once-in-a-decade battle over redrawing congressional district boundaries seems to have gone in favor of Democrats after the Colorado Supreme Court announced last Monday it affirms Denver District Judge Richard Hyatt’s decision to select a map submitted by Democrats.
On the Western Slope, the new map brings few changes to the Third Congressional District, which is currently held by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R). The Third District keeps the Western Slope whole, retains the San Luis Valley, Pueblo and Custer County and adds Lake County and a portion of Eagle County from the town of Edwards west.
In his decision to select the map in November after a trial, Hyatt stated he was “untroubled” by the fact that Eagle County is divided between the Second and Third Congressional District at Edwards. He suggests there is a natural dividing line between the two, keeping the tourism-based resort areas of the I-70 Corridor east of Edwards in the 2nd District while it keeps the “flatter, lower capacity and higher speed section of the I-70 Corridor to the west in the Third District.
While the new map may equate to few changes for the Third Congressional District, the political realities on the Front Range may be much different. The new map shifts a rural portion of Douglas County out of the Sixth District and places it into the Fourth District while Larimer County is moved from the Fourth into the Second with Boulder. According to a Denver Post report, this means the new Sixth District, which now includes all of Aurora, becomes more politically competitive rather than being traditionally Republican dominated.
It also appears, according to The New York Times, that the new map solidifies some districts in favor of incumbents, for Democrats and Republicans alike.
Eastern Colorado’s Fourth District, for example, has been highly competitive in recent elections with Democrats in Fort Collins balanced against Republicans in the rural farming communities. By shifting Fort Collins into the Second District with Boulder (heavily Democratic) the new Fourth District could become more uniformly Republican.
Perhaps the biggest winner of the newly drawn map, according to The Times, is the city of Aurora, which is Colorado’s third-largest city. Aurora had been divided up into different districts under the previous map. The new map puts all of the city’s 325,000 people in the Sixth District, giving the city a single electoral voice.
The Supreme Court’s decision to affirm Hyatt’s selection of the map came after legislature failed to decide on one earlier this year. Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio said the new map would force Congressional representatives to be responsive their respective communities needs.
“Now that the redistricting process is complete, Colorado voters can be sure that they have the ability to choose representatives who reflect the needs and wishes of their communities,” Palacio said. “These Congressional districts reflect the Colorado of today, including our state’s political competitiveness. Successful Congressional representatives must be responsive to every constituent’s needs and, and Colorado’s new districts will ensure that representatives look beyond their political bases and work with everyone to get things done.”
Attorney Richard Westfall, who argued for Republicans in the appeal to Hyatt’s ruling told the Post he was “very disappointed” in the Supreme Court’s affirmation adding that “Douglas County and Larimer County in particular are harmed by today’s ruling.”