Local Dems, GOP split on redistricting | SummitDaily.com

Local Dems, GOP split on redistricting

DENVER – Summit County Democrats are none too happy about the redistricting bill approved in the Legislature late Wednesday morning. But local Republicans are just as adamant that state politicians did what is, by law, their responsibility to do.

“I believe it’s not good timing, and it was probably presented poorly,” said Republican County Commissioner Tom Long. “But if you check state statutes, it’ll tell you it’s the state Legislature’s place to redistrict, not the court’s. In the last go-round, Democrats stonewalled long enough, they got past the deadline and it ended up in court. It’s called ugly politics. It’s democracy in action. No one said it’s pretty.”

This week, legislators approved Senate Bill 352, which Republicans introduced three days before the Legislature convened yesterday. It redraws U.S. congressional district lines a judge outlined last year and gives the GOP a stronghold in the state.

Legislators must redraw the boundaries after each Census to reflect the new populations and “communities of interest” of each district. Colorado picked up a new district in the U.S. House because of the state’s rapid growth in the 1990s. That district is represented by Republican Bob Beauprez, who narrowly won the seat last fall.

The Legislature couldn’t agree on proposed boundaries last fall, so a judge outlined them instead. Democrats say those lines should stand. Republicans say the judge’s map was temporary and that the Legislature has the right – and the responsibility – to change it.

“If the state statute says the Legislature is supposed to decide it, that’s where it should be,” said Marty Ferris, chair of the Central Committee of the Republican Party in Summit County. “But I don’t think they should be trying to set up districts by where Republicans or Democrats are. I wish they would just get along, work it out, act like adults. I don’t like what either side’s doing.”

The new map will expand the 7th District to include Arapahoe and Elbert counties, currently in the 6th District, thus adding 27,000 more Republicans to the voting ranks in the 7th District. It would also reduce minority representation in that district from 20 percent to 14 percent.

Harley Williams, the former Summit County Republican chairman, said he understands why the bill was introduced so late in the session.

“It would have completelywiped out the session if they did it earlier,” he said. “I don’t think either side would have cooperated.”

Williams said he doesn’t think the current 2nd District boundaries reflect a community of interest.

“When you combine Summit County with Boulder, or Pitkin with Weld County, it violates the communities of interest requirement,” he said. “I don’t think either party’s done a very good job following that.”

Summit County, along with Grand, Boulder, Gilpin and Eagle counties, is in the 2nd Congressional District. The bill will add Pitkin County to its ranks, making it an even stronger Democratic stronghold. But it will remove Democrats from the 3rd Congressional District, making the 3rd a stronger Republican district.

“What a ploy that is,” said Democrat Sandy Greenhut. “They’re taking the limelight off the budget.”

Democrat Dave Cunningham said the Legislature is “way off track.”

“That they spent two full days in a limited session to make sure Bob (Beauprez) has a safe seat is very disappointing,” he said. “It breeds ill will; it paralyzes the government. They should be working on what’s important for the state and not working to protect friends. It’s shameful.”

The controversy extends beyond the county borders, too.

Democratic state Sen. Joan Fitz-

Gerald, who represents Summit County and who walked out of the Senate Monday after refusing to cast a vote on the bill, said the maneuver is a political power grab. Other Democrats called it “the tyranny of the majority.”

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said it’s part of a national movement to secure Republican strongholds in preparation for the 2004 presidential elections.

One thing both parties have in common, however, is their distaste for how legislators are behaving.

Two staffers quit and another broke into tears during arguments on the Senate floor earlier this week as legislators yelled at each other so loudly that students and interns on the third floor could hear them.

“To call it up is fine. To behave like they are is not,” Long said. “I believe the legislators – both Democrats and Republicans – need to accept the responsibility they’ve been given and act like adults.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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