DENVER - Democratic congressmen Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis testified Wednesday in a trial to redraw Colorado districts, with Perlmutter advocating for competitive seats and Polis saying Colorado State University and the University of Colorado would benefit from having one representative.
Perlmutter, who represents a district nearly evenly split among Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters, said such districts force politicians to work harder to get elected.
"It forces people running for office to reach out a lot and to engage as many people as possible," said Perlmutter, who represents the suburban 7th District created in 2002. Republican Bob Beauprez first won the district by 121 votes.
"You have to listen to all views," Perlmutter said about his district.
Democrats are arguing for competitiveness in redrawing districts to reflect population changes during the last 10 years, but Republicans say competitiveness is too vague a criterion to settle on new maps.
Democrats and Republicans filed lawsuits after the Legislature failed to agree on new districts this spring. A Denver District Court judge is considering about a half-dozen maps, including proposals from Democrats, Republicans and other political interests. The trial is scheduled to conclude this week.
Republicans say one of the maps they're presenting makes minimal changes to the current districts and that they're trying to follow the criteria of the courts in settling redistricting cases. That includes keeping communities of interest together, preserving county and municipal boundaries and avoiding racial discrimination.
The Democratic map would put rural, Republican Larimer County in Polis' district, the heavily Democratic 2nd District that includes the mountains. Polis said that while hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking," may not be a major issue in Larimer County like it is in his district, it's still an issue nonetheless. He was responding to questions from a Republican attorney.
Polis also said it would help if Colorado State University, in Larimer County, was in the district he represents, which includes the University of Colorado in Boulder.
"Having CSU and CU in the same district will allow whoever the member is to focus their own resources and their staff resources more on higher education issues," he said.
The Democratic map would also take part of Aurora out of Perlmutter's district, putting the city entirely in Republican Rep. Mike Coffman's 6th District. Coffman's district has been a GOP stronghold and Republicans argue Democrats are making drastic changes to gain an advantage there.
U.S. Republican Rep. Scott Tipton also testified this week, saying his sprawling 3rd District in southern and western Colorado is unified by rural and agricultural interests and should not change much. Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, from eastern Colorado's 4th District, is expected to testify Thursday.
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