Democratic 3rd District Congressional candidate Sal Pace is not surprised that the Colorado Supreme Court decided this morning to uphold Denver District Judge Robert Hyatt’s ruling in favor of a new congressional map for the state drawn by Democrats and designed to increase electoral competitiveness.
The 3rd District, currently represented in Congress by Republican Scott Tipton, arcs around the western half of the state, where Rocky Mountains slope into high desert on the far western and southern ends and where on the south-eastern end of the district, grassland begins its long stretch into the great American prairie. The district has long been moderately conservative. Tipton unseated “blue dog” or moderate Democrat John Salazar last year.
“The district is a toss-up district and remains a toss-up district,” Pace told the Colorado Independent weeks ago, before Republicans appealed Hyatt’s decision accepting the Democratic map. Pace said Hyatt demonstrated a keen understanding of the character of the district. Pace, like the Democrats who drew the maps, stressed shared interest for the district communities tied mostly to water and oil and gas.
“The 3rd District from Alamosa to Rifle shares a lot of commonly held values and I think that was reflected in the map the judge chose,” Pace said.
“It’s exciting to have Leadville and Lake County in the 3rd with the headwaters of the Arkansas River. There are a lot of similar water issues and concerns at the headwaters as there are in other parts of the district. I think that’s a nice symbiotic relationship and a good addition.
“Eagle county is an exciting addition. The county has a lot of the land-use issues, water issues, oil and gas drilling that are consistent in other parts of the district.
“There was a problem before when the Roaring Fork Valley was split between two congressional districts. The Roaring Fork Valley is all in one district with the inclusion of western Eagle and I think that’s important for keeping together communities of interest.”
The new map places Las Animas County on the southern border with New Mexico into the Fourth District. Pace said he wasn’t concerned about the district losing the traditionally Democratic Latino voters in the city of Trinidad.
“The Latino population is the fastest growing in the state and has a significant percentage in the 3rd Congressional District. Anyone running for Congress has to ensure they are listening to the concerns of the Latino population. And the concerns of the Latino population are lagely about [expanding] jobs and quality education for everybody.”
The suburban Denver 6th Congressional District, represented by Republican Mike Coffman, endured the most dramatic changes. A longtime Republican stronghold, the district is now a tossup by all measures.
Republicans assailed the new map, arguing that it threw off important factors in order to alter long-standing district lines for partisan gain.
Judge Hyatt and the state Supreme Court, however, agreed with Democrats who argued that establishing competitiveness had to be among the top priorities in considering any new configuration. Judge Hyatt and the state’s high court justices agreed. They also agreed that district lines drawn a decade ago no longer reflect the shifted demographics of the state.
Democratic attorney Mark Grueskin hailed the decision as not just a victory for Colorado Democrats but for enlightened redistricting efforts coast to coast.
“This is an incredibly important day for Colorado and, hopefully, the country. This map was all about accountability.”
Many political analysts see contemporary congressional district maps that lump Republican constituencies and Democratic constituencies into different districts as a main force behind the arch-partisan politics that have gridlocked Washington. Competitive districts, at least theoretically, force representatives to consider ideas and proposals put forward by constituents and members of Congress outside of their own partisan circles. Election campaigns in competitive districts cannot succeed by targeting only the most partisan primary voters.
Additional reporting by Troy Hooper.