McNulty chooses former Owens redistricting counsel to redraw legislative districts

McNulty chooses former Owens redistricting counsel to redraw legislative districts

Speaker of the House Frank McNulty appointed former Republican legislator Rob Witwer to the Colorado Reapportionment Commission on Monday. Said to be a man who can put partisanship aside by McNulty, the former state legislator will not be experiencing the redrawing of state lines for the first time.

Witwer was appointed to his father’s seat in the Colorado State House of Representatives. Witwer also served as the lead legal counsel to then Gov. Bill Owens during Colorado’s contentious Congressional redistricting in 2001. He also served U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez in the same role during a recount of 7th Congressional District voting, and served as a legal counsel for the Colorado Republican Party before becoming a state Representative in 2005.

“Rob is a dedicated state servant who will do what’s best for the people of Colorado,” said McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch.  “He’s well known as a statesman who has a knack for putting partisan politics aside to find common ground.”

While considered a conservative Republican and a “star to watch” by the conservative publication The National Journal, Witwer reportedly was known for striking out to find bipartisan consensus while a legislator and championed the cause of eliminating a partisan division of legislative chambers in the House.

“People are tired of partisanship, especially in the redistricting and reapportionment process,” Witwer said in a statement declaring his appointment.  “Hopefully this commission can work together to find an outcome that is fair and equitable for all Coloradans, whether Democrat, Republican or independent.”

While also practicing law, he worked as the campaign manager for his replacement Republican Cheri Gerou, who took his seat in the House. In addition to his political work, Witwer took the time to pen, along with journalist Adam Schrager, The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care). The book provides an account of the Democratic takeover of Colorado’s seats of power in the 2000s.

The Reapportionment Commission is responsible for redrawing legislative district boundaries. The eleven member panel is made up of an appointment from the House and Senate leadership. In addition, the governor appoints three members and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appoints four.

Speaking to the Denver Post recently, Witwer explained that Sen. Mark Udall was on the right track in his work to end the partisan divide in seating arrangements during the State of the Union Address.

“As simple as it sounds, the physical separation of Republicans and Democrats probably does contribute to the partisan divide,” Witwer said. “. . .When your interpersonal activity is largely restricted to those who share your beliefs, both individual legislators and the public at large are deprived of meaningful bipartisan interaction. In a sense, the aisle becomes a wall.”

If Witwer has in the past been able to cross the aisle, it remains to be seen if he, and other appointed commission members, can draw an equally bipartisan line on a map.

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Joseph Boven

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