Community split on where Summit County should land in congressional district map
Some community members believe the county should stay in the proposed 3rd Congressional District, while others want the county to merge with Front Range communities
Community members, town staff and elected officials are split on where they want to see Summit County fall in Colorado’s redrawn congressional districts.
On Saturday, July 31, the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions visited the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco to hear testimony from over 30 people. Individuals from Summit and surrounding counties were given the chance to speak about the preliminary maps for congressional and legislative districts drawn by the nonpartisan committee.
Colorado is one of six states that will get at least one new congressional seat in 2022 due to population gains. In June, the nonpartisan committee released preliminary maps, but these are to be tweaked once the latest U.S. Census data is released, which is expected to happen later this month.
The proposed congressional map moves Summit County from the 2nd Congressional District, which is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse, into the 3rd District, which is currently represented by Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert.
This proposed 3rd Congressional District includes 27 counties total, including Summit, Park, Clear Creek, Lake, Pitkin, Eagle, Chaffee and Grand counties. The redrawn 2nd Congressional District currently includes just three counties: Larimer, Boulder and Gilpin. According to the redistricting commissions’ website, each of the eight districts must have a target population of 721,714 people.
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Community leaders including Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence, Frisco Mayor Hunter Mortensen, Breckenridge Town Council member Carole Saade and High Country Conservation Center Climate Action Director Jessica Hoover were all in support of merging Summit County with other Front Range communities for a multitude of reasons.
To start, Hoover noted that the county’s environmental goals are more aligned with Front Range communities than they are with rural areas. Hoover said that both Summit County and Front Range communities share electric infrastructure and renewable energy goals, and each area has similar electric vehicle initiatives.
“The electric vehicle transition is going to require substantial federal involvement for supporting electric vehicle sales and fostering development and installation of electric vehicle technologies, especially along the Interstate 70 corridor,” Hoover said. “… We have so many visitors from the Front Range coming up here, we need to make sure we have infrastructure for them to use. Because of this substantial back and forth between the Front Range and Summit County, the electrification initiatives in communities like Boulder and Jefferson counties will have an impact in Summit County and vice versa.”
In addition, Lawrence said that the county’s economy is directly tied to Front Range communities.
“Over $1 billion a year is spent in tourism right here in Summit County,” she said. “Those tourists are linked to the Front Range. We do not have a significant agricultural industry nor is it really part of our culture, just like we don’t have oil or gas.
“There’s a significant number of residents in Summit County that commute from the Front Range two to three times a week and, as we have seen throughout the pandemic, both the foothills and Summit County are experiencing significant growth … really related to the phenomenon known as Zoom towns.”
Silverthorne resident Chris Dorton said that taking the county at face value it appears to have more in common with other rural communities, but he said he believes this to be a misconception.
“While Summit County can be categorized as rural, it has much more in common with Denver and surrounding communities such as Boulder,” he said. “We’re more urban in our values and in our priorities, and we’re aligned with thinking about the environment as a whole.”
Others favor Summit County where it’s currently placed in the 3rd Congressional District. Breckenridge resident CJ Milmoe said that the interests of Front Range communities vary too greatly from Summit County, and it would be difficult for an elected official to represent both areas.
“I just think Boulder and Jefferson County are more aligned with other metroplexes and Denver than they are with Summit County,” Milmoe said. “Summit and counties in the new (3rd Congressional District) are populated with people who live here and work here because of the land, and it provides resources, recreation, tourism, agriculture. … The people in Boulder and Jefferson County are heavy professional and office workers.”
Breckenridge resident Kim McGahey, who writes a conservative column for the Summit Daily News, also voiced that Summit County should be kept in the proposed 3rd District.
“I approve of the inclusion of Summit County into the 3rd Congressional District and the other proposed redistricting maps created,” McGahey said. “The Western Slope should be kept whole as a community of interest. Summit County has nothing in common with Boulder County and the other Front Range communities besides the money they spend here.”
In addition to testifying about the congressional district, members of the public also voiced their opinions about the house district map, which moves Summit County from House District 61, currently represented by Democratic Rep. Julie McCluskie, and into House District 35, which is represented by Democratic Rep. Shannon Bird.
Most community members agreed that Summit County should be kept with counties of similar interests, including Lake, Clear Creek and Park counties. Currently, the preliminary map puts Summit and Clear Creek counties in House District 35, Lake County in House District 54 and Park County in House District 34.
Former Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said that all four of these counties should be kept together. Summit County commissioners Tamara Pogue and Josh Blanchard and former Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson all showed their support for this idea, as well.
“We’re much less of a seasonal economy than we used to be, but we still have a high peak season where our workforce needs are extremely high and we’re really dependent on those surrounding counties to make our economy work,” Stiegelmeier said. “There’s really an interconnectedness where families come to Summit County for work, for school, for health care that creates a sense of one community with all of those counties and also common interests that are imperative for our state legislature to understand.”
In addition to similar workforce needs, Stiegelmeier said all four counties share similar interests in regard to Interstate 70 and wildfire risk and mitigation.
The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions are still collecting public input on both maps. To participate, visit its website at redistricting.colorado.gov.
Members of the public testify during a hearing hosted by the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions on Saturday, July 31, 2021.
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