Aspen to get new congressman under GOP plan
A surprise redistricting maneuver by Colorado Republicans is getting assailed by critics around the state and in the valley.
But it would allow Aspen to replace a conservative Congressman with one more suited with its liberal-leaning politics.
The redistricting plan approved by the Colorado Legislature on its last day of the session Wednesday shuffled numerous parts of the state into different districts. The move primarily affects members of Colorado’s delegation to the U.S. Congress and their constituents.
Aspen and Pitkin County were removed from the 3rd Congressional District represented by Glenwood Springs Republican Scott McInnis and in the 2nd Congressional District, represented by Boulder Democrat Mark Udall.
From strictly a parochial view, it was probably a good move. Pitkin County is known for its liberal voting base and, therefore, aligns better with Udall.
Udall agreed that he and Aspen are a good match. And the redistricting actually removed areas from his district that tend to vote Republican.
“It doesn’t hurt me and maybe it helps me,” he said.
But he opposes the redistricting on broader grounds. The move was a scheme, he and many other Democrats charge, to make the seventh Congressional District more “safe” for the Republicans. Republican Bob Beauprez was elected to the seat in November by a margin of only 121 votes.
Udall said all the areas removed from his district were given to Beauprez’s district.
McInnis said through an aide that he had nothing to do with shedding liberal Pitkin County from the district he represents. “We don’t like losing anybody,” said McInnis spokesman Blair Jones.
The Congressman didn’t even see the redistricting proposal until Tuesday, when is was headed for debate by the state Legislature, according to Jones. McInnis will continue to stay in touch with friends and supporters in areas his district is losing, like Pitkin County, Jones said, and he is willing to help all Coloradans.
“The door is always open,” said Jones.
Colorado University Board of Regents member and Aspenite Gail Schwartz may loser her position as a result of the scheme, however. She was elected to a six-year term in November 2000 as the representative from the 3rd Congressional District. The redistricting places her in the second district, where a different representative to the Board of Regents is already in place.
The Republicans who drafted the plan obviously didn’t give a hoot what kind of headaches the plan would create for an elected Democrat from Aspen. For Schwartz the maneuver has created numerous unanswered questions, such as does she still have a role to play on the board? She is awaiting answers from the Colorado Attorney General’s office.
Pitkin County Democratic party chairwoman Camilla Auger blasted the redistricting despite the satisfactory pairing of Udall and Aspen. In the case of Schwartz, Pitkin County voters will be deprived of being represented by the person they elected, Auger noted.
The whole process shows the importance of joining and being active with a political party, she said, because party politics dominated this process, she said.
Auger said Colorado Republicans are making an unprecedented move that could trigger similar schemes around the country.
Typically redistricting is done once a decade after the census is performed. The concept is simple – to create districts with equal populations. Politics comes into play because the party in power at the time census results are in usually tries to draw the lines to benefit their party.
Democrats had rare control of the Colorado Senate when redistricting was last performed. Republicans objected to the results. After they regained power this session, they approved an alternative redistricting plan.
The move was supported by Sen. Lewis Entz and Rep. Gregg Rippy, Pitkin County’s legislators. They are both Republicans.
Auger protested the rerun of redistricting.
“This is the first time anybody’s tried to take two bites of the apple,” she said. “Redistricting is very hardball politics.”
Democrats might come to bat for the final time. Udall said it is nearly certain that the Republicans’ actions will force the Democrats to take the issue to court.
“We’re going to be very aggressive in bringing forward a case,” he said.
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