Colorado’s redrawn state legislative districts, preliminary as the draft maps may be, are the first ever to be drawn without fear or favor toward incumbents – and it shows.
“It would really shake up the political class in Colorado if they were to go into effect like this,” said Alan Philp, a Republican consultant who compared the preliminary House and Senate maps that were released Tuesday to a mega-earthquake and Category 5 hurricane.
“In past redistrictings, it was political insiders drawing maps that were designed to, for the most part, promote the interests of parties and incumbents,” he said. “That is clearly not the M.O. of the staff.”
The nonpartisan mapmakers paired incumbents in 13 House districts and seven Senate districts, according to the Colorado Sun, which would force friends to run against friends and leave many districts without an incumbent. For comparison, only one incumbent senator was similarly impacted by redistricting in 2011, Republican campaign consultant Ryan Lynch said.
“There are a lot of questions out there that are unclear and I don’t really know who has the answers to them. So, yeah, chaotic is probably the right word for it,” Lynch said.
Along with the heartburn it may cause campaigns, there are legal questions. Jeremiah Barry, the legislative redistricting commission’s lawyer, said it’s unknown what happens when a senator up for reelection in 2022 is placed in the same district as a senator up for reelection in 2024 — the Colorado Supreme Court may have to decide when that election occurs.
The caveat to all preliminary redistricting maps is that they will change. But it’s clear from the outset that nonpartisan mapmakers are taking seriously the constitutional requirement that they don’t intentionally aid incumbents. If anything, they’re doing the opposite.
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All aboard … in a few years. Maybe. A taxing district with the aim of creating a Front Range rail system has been signed into law, but several things must fall into place.
Capitol Diary • By Saja Hindi
Gov. Jared Polis’ whirlwind of bill signings across the state included two new laws this week that will provide more money for Colorado’s $41 billion ag industry.
Both bipartisan bills are supported by state stimulus funding — HB21-1262 allocates $25 million in funding for the National Western Stock Show, the State Fair and other agricultural events; and SB21-248 creates a loan program with $30 million for beginning farmers and ranchers and farm-to-market infrastructure loans and grants.
GOP Rep. Mike Lynch of Weld County said at the signing that the money will be paid back “many times over,” because the stock show and State Fair are crucial to the ag industry and the state’s overall economy.
“This organization is necessary to keep our western heritage alive in this state,” Lynch wrote on Facebook.
Much to the disappointment of many in the ag community, the stock show, which is held in Denver, was canceled because of COVID-19, but is expected to return in 2022. State lawmakers took the opportunity this week to create attention for the show, with House Speaker Alec Garnett joking at the bill signing and on Twitter that Oklahoma and other states won’t be able to take the show away from Colorado.
More Colorado political news
- Polis signs a metro district reform into law, though critics don’t think it goes far enough.
- The effort to transition workers away from coal mining gets a $15 million boost.
- More ranked-choice voting could be coming to Colorado cities and towns.
- Members of American Indian tribes will be able to get in-state college tuition starting in the fall.
- Colorado’s immigrants and refugees have more protections, support under new state laws.
- The state’s ag workers can now join unions and get paid more.
Federal politics • By Justin Wingerter
The 7th District
Last week’s proposed congressional redistricting map is, like the state legislative maps, sure to change. That didn’t stop the National Republican Congressional Committee from taking aim at the 7th Congressional District, a currently solidly blue area in Jefferson County that’s at risk of turning purple based on preliminary maps.
“This year, your Fourth of July is more expensive because Democrats’ harmful economic policies are making everyday goods cost more,” an NRCC digital ad says. It debuted in Colorado on Wednesday. “Tell Congressman Ed Perlmutter that we can’t afford this.”
The Democrat has represented the 7th District since 2007. He won last year’s election by 22 percentage points and hasn’t faced a semi-competitive race since 2014, when he won by 10 percentage points.
But the preliminary map released last week recommends that the 7th District no longer include Democratic-leaning Arvada and instead move into Republican-leaning Douglas County. The district would still be Democratic overall though more competitive.
Perlmutter’s team doesn’t sound worried.
“According to nonpartisan redistricting commission staff, these maps are going to change,” Perlmutter campaign manager Austin Blumenfeld said. “The NRCC is wasting their money.”
Other federal politics news
- U.S. Rep. Ken Buck is staring down Big Tech companies, and powerful people in his political party.
- A federal judge has decided Rep. Lauren Boebert can keep blocking a Twitter critic.
Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson
Two brief notes
Denver City Council members largely shrugged off allegations of corruption and improper contracting surrounding Phil Washington, Mayor Michael Hancock’s nominee to serve as the next CEO of Denver International Airport.
Washington, the former CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and former CEO of Denver’s Regional Transportation District, was asked Thursday mostly about his professional experience and plans for the airport’s future.
Councilwoman Robin Kniech said any large organization or government, the city of Denver included, faces lawsuits, so she didn’t find the allegations against Washington enough to hold him back. The nominee also chimed in and called the accusations of impropriety and discrimination baseless.
The entire council will likely vote on July 12 whether to approve Washington as the airport’s next leader. City officials had hoped for him to take over in mid-July when departing CEO Kim Day leaves.
While Washington prepares to begin his job, prominent City Hall politico Lisa Calderón is taking off.
Calderón, who ran for mayor in 2019, has since worked as chief of staff for Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca. But she announced this week that she’s becoming the executive director of Emerge Colorado, a statewide nonprofit that helps elect Democratic women and offers training for those running for office.
In a news release announcing her departure, Calderón praised the nonprofit’s growing network of alumnae, which include CdeBaca and state Rep. Leslie Herod, and pledged to grow the network further.
“I will ensure that our state is getting the leadership we deserve — Emerge leadership!” Calderón said in the release.
More Denver and suburban political news
- Denver grocery and retail stores now charge 10 cents for each single-use paper and plastic bag you use.
- A federal appeals court shot down a long-running legal challenge from Centennial Airport and several metro counties to a set of new flight paths in and out of Denver International Airport.
- The Thornton City Council this week told Weld County to take a hike, in more delicate language, when it comes to the $450 million water pipeline the suburb wants to build.
- Denver crews cleared out more homeless encampments in the last six months than they did in all of 2020. Mayor Michael Hancock has no plans to stop.
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