Mad about Republican tweaking, Heath says Democrat map offers competition

The big fight over congressional redistricting entered center ring Thursday afternoon as Sen. Rollie Heath introduced SB 268 as the Democratic starting point for the state’s new congressional district lines. The map mirrors a version first presented in the failed Joint Select Committee on Redistricting, which he co-chaired.

The Senate Majority Office told the Colorado Independent Thursday that the map described in the bill is what Democrats presented as City Integrity Map 4. The map can be viewed here.

“Today we introduced a map that honors our charge to create districts that give Coloradans the best congressional representation possible. I co-chaired the historic joint select redistricting committee,” Heath said. “That committee traveled the state listening to folks who said they want fair and competitive districts–districts that don’t create congressmen or congresswomen for life. The map introduced today creates fair, competitive districts that will allow voters to hold their representatives accountable.”

The new map would split the Western Slope and Eastern Plains in two, creating what would amount to the 3rd CD becoming a large southern Colorado voting bloc. CD 2 would take over a large section of northwest Colorado and CD 4 would shrink in area to encompass the northeastern half of the state. It is a map Republicans were not happy with.

Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, voiced his thoughts in a press release: “I’m disappointed that Democrats insist on carving up the Western Slope and Eastern Plains, but I am proud that Republicans will stand-up and fight for rural Colorado. I have an ‘R’ behind my name, but that stands more for ‘rural’ than ‘Republican.’”

It was a stance House leadership also followed up on.

“The Democrat maps are not only an insult to the law, but also to the thousands of Coloradans who have testified, sent emails and made phone calls asking for a map that is fair and protects Colorado communities,” House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said.

After Democrats and Republicans failed to come to an agreement over two sets of disparate maps, Heath said that he was done with the process–he charged the process was mired down by the Republican leadership who would not let the Republican committee members negotiate–and decided to issue the Democratic maps in the Senate. House leadership, likewise, has said that they plan to introduce a bill with Republican-drawn maps.

Two matters were at the heart of the problem. Democrats clamored for competitive districts and created maps that followed transportation corridors that would allow them to carve out congressional districts with only one safe district for each party. Republicans said they were not interested in competitiveness and insisted that the Western Slope, Eastern Plains, Larimer County and El Paso County remain whole.

Republican maps stuck primarily to the current district lines, however, as reported by the Colorado Independent, Sen.  Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said in the committee that he had tweaked the map he was bringing forward in favor of Republicans so that he would have something to negotiate with. It was a position he again reaffirmed more recently in a Denver Post article.

The original McNulty Map C maintains CD 1 and 2 as Democratic strongholds and retains the deep dominance of Republicans in CD 4, CD 5, and CD 6. The plan’s only real changes to the current configurations is to increase the Republican numbers and decrease Democratic numbers in CD 3 and CD 7 which are seen as competitive districts.

Heath said earlier today he was angered by the Republican choice to skew the maps in their favor during the negotiation process, but said they were now moving forward in the process.

“Throughout this process the Republicans have said ‘we’re just tweaking’ these maps a little bit. Now it’s clear that those tweaks were to solidify their existing majority.” Heath said. “The maps we’ve presented will change our existing congressional district lines, but they do so to create districts that are competitive, districts that will keep Colorado from having to live with congressmen or congresswomen for life.”

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