Dan Maes becomes factor in redistricting as talks stall

(Image: Flickr/John Dalkin)

Republicans countered Democratic desires for drawing competitive districts Wednesday by refusing to use party registration as a factor in the Joint Select Committee on Redistricting’s effort to draw Congressional lines. The move led to another stalemate between the parties, leaving no map drawn and an ever increasing chance that Colorado courts will again draw the Congressional districts.

“I absolutely do not believe that you can use voter registration as a tool for finding competitiveness,” Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said. “If that were the case, Dan Maes would have been in a horse race in November. Dan Maes got 11 percent. There you go. It is not a factor.”

“I live in a competitive district,” Coram later said. “In the last four Representatives, two [have been] Democrat, two Republican.”

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate and political neophyte Dan Maes took eleven percent of the vote after Tom Tancredo switched party affiliation from Republican to The American Constitution Party to enter a race against winning Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper. Tancredo took 36.7 percent of the vote, fracturing the Republican vote. Tancredo reportedly then returned to the Republican Party.

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said that he simply wanted to take politics out of the equation and work on issues surrounding communities of interest.

“I think we already have a competitive state and I worry that on the other side of that competitive coin, that it just breeds more polarization among the electorate,” Brophy said.

Despite the assertion by Republicans that party affiliation did not matter in determining the political outcome of a particular vote, Democrats continued, as they did Tuesday, to champion what they see as a need to deviate from the current judicially-drawn Congressional districts that keeps two Democratic and three Republican districts as safe seats. They said they had come ready to work on a blank map but only if competitiveness was one of the factors.

“If we want to take politics out of this then I would say that the best way to do this is to maximize competitive districts, because the alternative is that you have safe partisan districts where you have the ultimate political outcome which is one party domination in the state by map design,” Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora said. “I don’t have a problem with taking the politics out, but you do that by creating competitive districts so all ideas can survive and all voters have a chance to be represented.”

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, agreed and said that she didn’t care if they used voter registration or the 2008 or 2010 voter database, but competitiveness needed to be built in as the starting point for redistricting negotiations.

“We may not agree on whether that is performance or not performance–we are never going to get there,” Schwartz said. “We feel if you can keep competitiveness, everyone will have a vote and I would just ask that that be built in so that we can use that as a gauge.”

Though parties had agreed Tuesday to drop their maps and work on a bipartisan design, it was clear throughout the committee meeting that both sides still remained concerned about adhering, at least in part, to their initial proposals. Republicans continued to favor sticking closely to the current Congressional district lines. Democrats said it was unlikely Republicans could get everything they wanted but any map should be drawn competitively.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans got their way Wednesday night as co-chair of the committee Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, recessed for the evening. He said that he now planned to speak with House and Senate leadership for an extension to continue the bipartisan discussions.

After the meeting, both parties issued press releases on the failure to come to a consensus on a map. Republicans charged that they had come ready to draw a map, but were shunted by Democratic unwillingness.

“Tonight, Republican members came to the negotiating table willing and ready to draw maps,” House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said in the release. “It’s unfortunate that Sen. Heath and Democrat members of the committee refused to fulfill their obligation to draw a map that is worthy of the people of Colorado.”

The Democratic release said Republicans were unwilling to make competitive districts for Colorado citizens, pulling a quote from Heath.

“With your maps we don’t get competitive districts, we get GOP districts, and that’s not acceptable…That’s a non-starter for us…this state deserves more.”

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