The Colorado Supremes approve Democratic district boundaries for the General Assembly

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Here’s the link to the final plans submitted by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission in Google Earth format.

From The Denver Post (Tim Hoover):

“It is ordered that Resubmitted Plan for districts for the Senate and House of Representatives shall be, and the same hereby is approved,” the court said in a short order issued today, rejecting Republican arguments that the maps were unconstitutional. “It is further ordered that the resubmitted plan shall be filed with Colorado Secretary of State no later than Dec. 14, 2011.” The state’s high court earlier this year kicked back a first set of maps drawn by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission, agreeing with Republican arguments that the maps — which had been approve on bipartisan votes — split too many counties. The commission then went back to the drawing board in late November, approving a new set of maps – drawn by Democrats – on 6-5 votes over Republican objections.

The maps would make 38 of 100 legislative seats competitive, with 24 in the 65-member House and 14 in the 35-member Senate.

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

The court accepted a map that puts Durango and Gunnison in the same state House district and ships off conservative Montezuma County to join a Montrose-based district…

Monday’s three-paragraph decision did not elaborate on the justices’ reasoning, and it did not say how each of the seven justices voted.

The new map makes big trouble for many Republicans, including Rep. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio. Brown now will have to travel three mountain passes between Durango and Gunnison, and he will be in a district that is much easier for Democrats to win than his old one, which was drawn along the Cortez-Durango-Pagosa Springs axis…

Other Republicans were angry, including Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. “It is disappointing to see the Supreme Court validate such blatantly partisan and politically vindictive maps. It is clear that the reapportionment process in Colorado is broken and in need of reform,”

Cadman said in a news release. Cadman now shares a Colorado Springs district with Sen. Keith King, the Senate Republican with the most experience in education policy. Only one of them will survive past 2012. Other senior and up-and-coming Republicans also will have to run against each other in primaries if they want to stay in the Legislature.

The map harms a few Democrats, too, by either putting them in safe GOP districts or into districts with other incumbent Democrats. But Democrats were happy about Monday’s decision, which creates – by their definition – 35 House and Senate districts that both parties have a chance to win. “These new districts will favor representatives who are accountable and responsive, and Democrats will field candidates who fit this profile,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio in a news release.

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, landed in House District 46, where Pueblo City Councilman Leroy Garcia, a Democrat, had announced his candidacy months earlier. The new House District 46 is 40 percent Hispanic. Voter registration, based on the 2010 election, is 48.66 percent Democratic, 25.82 percent Republican and 25.06 percent unaffiliated…

The bipartisan Colorado Reapportionment Commission has met and heard public testimony on reapportionment since May. The first set of maps it submitted to the Supreme Court enjoyed broad support on the commission from Democrats and Republicans alike. However, the court ruled that the original submission did not sufficiently minimize splitting counties and cities into multiple districts and rejected it. When the commission resumed its work, Mario Carrera, its unaffiliated chairman, sided with Democrats to cast the deciding vote. Republicans reacted fiercely to the outcome and criticized Democrats’ re- drawn proposals as an opportunistic strike to pit incumbent GOP leaders in districts with each other.

“It’s not required that incumbents be protected,” [Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party] said…

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, finds himself in a district with Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs. “It is disappointing to see the Supreme Court validate such blatantly partisan and politically vindictive maps,” Cadman said. “It is clear that the reapportionment process in Colorado is broken and in need of reform. I am now considering sponsoring a bill for the 2012 session to address this problem.”[...]

“I am confident that with hard-working candidates and a winning message of economic growth and job creation Republicans will expand our majority in the state House (and) win a majority in the state Senate,” [Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party] said.

“When you level the playing field, Democrats are going to prevail,” Palacio said. “They are the candidates standing up for middle-class families, as opposed to today’s Republicans, who are standing up for corporate interests.”

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

House District 47 now spans from eastern Fremont County through Otero County, lassoing much of Pueblo County in between. No incumbent lives in the district, so an election will be held next year to fill it. Las Animas County now is paired with Eastern Plains counties in a House district.

In the Senate, another orphan district was created by peeling eight counties from District 2, currently held by Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City. The new district spans from the San Luis Valley to the Lower Arkansas Valley, taking away a portion of District 5 represented by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village.

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Newly created Senate District 35 will stretch from the San Luis Valley to the Kansas line, snaring 16 counties — but no incumbent — along the way. Half of the counties in the new district were plucked from present day Senate District 2, where Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, was elected just last year, and another seven counties were extracted from the district represented by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village. “It’s going to be a pretty tough district to campaign and represent,” Grantham said. “It’s very big, but the interests are the same in rural Colorado — the interests that I have still. I’ll represent rural interests whether I technically represent the Arkansas Valley or not.” Grantham’s new district will link Fremont County to El Paso, Teller and Park counties. He will represent the district in part of 2012 and all of 2013 and 2014, when he will be up for re-election…

Las Animas County, which objected that it originally was split into two districts and paired with Pueblo in one, will be in a rural, Eastern Plains district that stretches east to Kansas and north to Washington County. Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Cokedale, lives in that district. He is term-limited, and the seat will be up for grabs next year.

More coverage from Ivan Moreno writing for the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic. From the article:

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to approve the maps gives Democrats a sweep in the once-a-decade redistricting battles. The new congressional maps the court approved last week were also drawn by Democrats and give them a chance to unseat Republican Rep. Mike Coffman next year in a district never held by Democrats.

The court did not immediately issue a written opinion on the state legislative maps, which were drawn in a process that became tense with partisanship during the last meetings of the 11-member redistricting commission.

Republicans criticized the maps, calling them “politically vindictive” because they pair several GOP incumbents in the same districts. The most notable are House Republican Leader Amy Stephens and Senate Republican Leader Bill Cadman, both of whom will be in the same districts as members of their own party in El Paso County.

“I’m surprised the court would put its seal of approval on the most partisan state map in 30 years,” said Rob Witwer, one of the Republicans on the commission.

Pairing Republican incumbents in contests could increase Democrats’ five-vote advantage in the Senate and jeopardize the GOP’s one-vote edge in the House…

The new maps for the Colorado House and Senate also mean that 38 of the Legislature’s 100 districts will be considered competitive in the coming years. Because of the state’s growing Latino population, 24 seats would be in districts where Hispanics would account for at least 30 percent of the vote.

Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College and Republican member of the commission, said his feelings about the maps were “quite mixed.” He said he approves that there are more competitive districts, but he criticized Democrats for what they did to Republican incumbents in leadership…

But [Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College and Republican member of the commission] said it may not be all bad for Republicans in the end, noting that Republicans now have 35 seats in the Legislature that are considered safe, compared with the Democrats’ 25. “The long-range view is that Republicans didn’t do badly,” he said.

More coverage from Lynn Bartels and Tim Hoover writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

But House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said that even with a Democratic “gerrymander,” the GOP is still in good shape to keep control of the House. “The Democrats are still fighting an uphill battle,” McNulty said. “Colorado continues to be a center-right state.”…

The open-and-shut ruling by the Supreme Court on Monday raises the question: Would Republicans have been better off if they hadn’t appealed the initial maps approved by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission? “No one realized the Democrats would be so vindictive when they drew the second set of maps,” said Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray…

Under the new maps, a variety of Republicans will have to either face off in primaries or agree on who bows out to avoid a fight. This dynamic, coupled with hard feelings toward Democrats over the maps, is not likely to make for a pleasant 2012 legislative session. “I think this might be the session you wouldn’t wish on your friends or your enemies,” said House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument. “It’s going to be tough.”[...]

“The stars are perfectly aligned for a difficult, contentious and frustrating legislative session,” said John Straayer, a political-science professor at Colorado State University. “You have disgruntlement over apportionment and redistricting, a 2012 presidential election and, with the Lobato (school funding) case, enormous financial pressures on the state. It will take an enormous level of statesmanship to get through the session.”

More coverage from Lynn Bartels writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

“It’s plain dirty politics and we’re going to remind the voters of that at election time,” said [House Majority Leader Amy Stephens], R-Monument…

But one Democrat on the reapportionment commission, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, argued that Republicans did it to themselves by appealing to the Supreme Court a pair of maps that had passed with bi-partisan support. When the court sent the maps back to the commission saying too many communities had been split, Democrats drew new maps reducing the splits but pairing GOP incumbents in the same districts…

…Webb said anyone who thinks it was “dirty politics didn’t watch the process.”

More coverage from Charles Ashby writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Under the new maps, Grand Junction becomes its own House district while the rest of the county continues to be paired with western Delta County in a separate district.

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