It’s splitsville for local House Districts 61, 57 | AspenTimes.com

It’s splitsville for local House Districts 61, 57

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy of the Colorado Reapportionment CommissioThese four maps illustrate the final decision of the Colorado Reapportionment Commission and the Colorado Supreme Court in redividing Colorado's 35 Senate districts, at left, and its 65 House districts, at right, based on the 2010 Census. The Senate and House district maps at top show legislative districts in effect from 2002 to 2012. The bottom maps show the new Senate and House districts that will be in effect starting with the 2012 election. Legislators elected in 2012 will take office in January 2013.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – New state legislative district boundaries approved by the Colorado Supreme Court this week will separate state Rep. Roger Wilson from most of the constituency he’s gotten to know and understand over the last year and a half.

Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs, was drawn out of the House District 61 he was elected to represent in 2010 under the new legislative district plans approved Monday.

Instead, the Missouri Heights resident will now be in the newly redrawn House District 57, which will include all of Garfield County, along with Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.

Wilson will continue to serve the current HD-61 through 2012. As established a decade ago, the district took in the entire Roaring Fork Valley, including Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, as well as the Basalt/El Jebel portion of Eagle County and all of Pitkin, Gunnison and Hinsdale counties.

“The main thing I want to communicate is that for the next year the 61st District will remain as it is now,” Wilson said. “I will be working very hard for that district during the upcoming legislative session, and for the remainder of 2012.”

After that, Wilson said he will need to carefully consider his options.

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“I am very interested in and loyal to the values of the Roaring Fork Valley and the counties surrounding the Elk Mountains,” said Wilson, whose two-year term ends after next year. He would have to run for election in the new HD-57 if he wants to remain in the statehouse.

The deadline to establish residency in a different district for November 2012 election purposes has already passed, he noted.

“I will have to look at how I can best continue to serve the state of Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley area,” he said. “I am very proud to represent this area, but I do consider myself as a Coloradoan first.”

The so-called reapportionment plan is required every 10 years following the U.S. Census to adjust for population changes. The plan was finalized by a special state commission last week, and won Supreme Court approval Monday.

Wilson wasn’t the only Garfield County representative drawn out of his district. So was current District 57 Rep. and Grand County resident Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs.

The new plan removes Grand, Routt and Jackson counties from HD-57 and puts them in the newly reconfigured HD-13 with parts of Clear Creek, Gilpin and Boulder counties.

The Roaring Fork Valley will now have three different state representatives:

• Glenwood Springs and Carbondale will be represented in HD-57.

• The Basalt/El Jebel area will join the rest of Eagle County and Routt County in the completely refashioned HD-26.

• Pitkin County, including Aspen and Snowmass Village, will remain in HD-61, along with Lake and Summit counties, and parts of Gunnison and Delta counties.

State Republicans have criticized the redrawn districts as favoring Democrats for election to legislative seats. But the Western Slope, and particularly the lower Roaring Fork Valley, appears to be the sacrificial lamb for Democrats, Garfield County Democratic Party Chairman Jack Real agreed.

“If you follow what they’re saying in Denver, apparently the new plan will be more competitive for Democrats,” Real said. “I would say that comes at the expense of Western Slope Democrats.”

He said Democrats will have a harder time winning the District 57 seat, as the revamped district is heavily Republican. Baumgardner won election in the current HD-57 with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Wilson, along with other area Democratic officials, had argued for the new legislative district plan to keep so-called “communities of interest” together, rather than following county boundaries.

“Communities of interest are really a better gauge, because it relates more to compactness,” Wilson said. “It may look compact from the point of view of latitude and longitude. But when you look at transportation corridors and mountain valleys, really it’s topography that defines the economic and cultural interests of communities.”

Garfield County Republicans, including the Republican-dominated Garfield Board of County Commissioners, had argued that the county be kept whole with the new legislative districts.

“The [plan] ensures all communities of interest within Garfield County remain intact and will elect a single representative,” reads a statement from Garfield County commissioners to the Supreme Court sent before Monday’s decision.

“We’re very satisfied with Garfield County being whole,” Garfield Republican Party Chairman Ron Roesener said.

The new Colorado Senate District 8 will also see the return of the Battlement Mesa portion of Garfield County under the newly approved plan.

“We’re glad to be back in the same senate district as the rest of the county,” said Roesener, who resides in Battlement Mesa.

jstroud@postindependent.com