Final proposed Colorado legislative districts discussed
September 13, 2011
DENVER – Partisan friction over new legislative districts in some of the Colorado’s most populous counties took an unexpected twist Monday when the unaffiliated chairman of the commission charged with the task announced he’ll propose his own maps.
Chairman Mario Carrera said he’s confident every commissioner will have their say in the maps and hoped for “a positive outcome,” though he cautioned not everyone will be happy.
“We’re not going to be able to please everyone here in this room or outside of this room,” said Carrera, the vice president and general manager of Entravision Communications in Colorado.
The once-a-decade process of redrawing legislative districts to account for population change can affect the balance of power at the state Capitol for years. It is being watched closely by Colorado’s split Legislature, where Democrats have a five-seat advantage in the Senate and Republicans hold a 1-seat edge in the House.
Most of the disagreement over the proposed maps involves proposed districts in Denver, Arapahoe, Jefferson, Adams and El Paso counties.
The panel, known as the Colorado Reapportionment Commission, has five Democrats, five Republicans, and one unaffiliated, all appointed by party leaders, the governor and a judge.
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Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, a Democrat, joked that Carrera’s map may get little support if both parties continue to lock horns.
“You’re going to submit a map, you may end up with a 1-10 (vote), as partisan parties get together, Mr. Chairman,” he said as commissioners laughed.
“Thank you for your vote of confidence, Mr. Webb,” Carrera replied.
Democrats contend that the House maps that Republicans proposed will expand their lead in the chamber. Republicans argue that what Democrats are proposing for the Senate will ensure their control there.
Democrats have been upset about a proposal to join part of southwest Denver Senate district with the gaming communities of Clear Creek and Gilpin counties.
Commissioners are required to follow a set of rules, including keeping communities of interest together and keeping cities and towns whole.
Republicans have criticized Democrats on that point, saying they haven’t stuck to the guidelines. They argued that Jefferson and Arapahoe counties – parts of which are considered toss-ups – were not getting the seats they deserve under the Democrats’ proposals.
Carrera, appointed by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, pointed out places where he disagreed on with both parties’ maps, giving an indication of where he might go with his own proposals.
He said the Democratic House map did not give enough seats to El Paso County, which was considered a Republican stronghold. He also said he didn’t understand the Republican’s Senate proposal to split off part of southwest Denver.
He said both parties have tried to create safe seats in Aurora, the state’s third largest city.
“There’s some overreach on both sides,” he said.
The maps that the commission agrees on will be submitted to the state Supreme Court for approval by Oct. 7.