New redistricting map keeps Summit County whole in the 2nd Congressional District
Community leaders are pleased the latest draft keeps the county intact, but there’s no consensus on whether the proposed district is best for Summit County’s interests
The newest map from the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission was released Wednesday, Sept. 15, showing considerable changes for Summit County residents and much of the northwest corner of the state from the previous draft.
Colorado has grown considerably over the past decade, by well over 700,000 residents, according to the latest census data. That means the state is getting its first new congressional district in the last 20 years and quite a bit of reshuffling for the state’s independent redistricting commissions.
The newest map has Summit County in its entirety sticking in its current spot in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, which is currently represented by Democrat Joe Neguse.
The newest map is in stark contrast to those previously released by the commission, including the preliminary map released June 23 that placed Summit County into the 3rd Congressional District and the first staff plan released Sept. 3 that split the county into the second and seventh districts.
While the newest map returns all Summit County residents to the 2nd Congressional District, the district itself would look significantly different under the current proposal, which loops Jackson, Routt and the west end of Eagle County into the district while dropping Gilpin, Clear Creek, Jefferson and Broomfield counties into the 7th Congressional District.
Community leaders on both sides of the political aisle seem to agree that keeping the county whole is a step in the right direction. But opinions still differ on whether the new map makes sense from a broader perspective.
Some say Summit’s continued inclusion in the 2nd Congressional District, and the makeup of the rest of the district as proposed, is more intuitive than previous iterations.
“I think this certainly aligns with our goals and what we were wanting to see, which is to keep Summit County whole,” Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said about the latest draft. “Certainly, we just don’t have the same amount of agriculture, oil and gas, etc., that a lot of (the 3rd Congressional District) has on the Western Slope. To me, this just feels like a better fit.”
Patti McLaughlin, chair of the Summit County Democrats, said she felt sticking in the 2nd Congressional District would mean residents would be well represented on important issues such as workforce housing, wildfire mitigation, public land preservation, Interstate 70 developments and more. Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue agreed, noting that it makes sense to connect the county with other ski resort communities with similar economic dynamics.
But others feel that continuing to tie Summit in too closely with Front Range counties like Boulder is a misstep.
“Up here in the mountains, regardless of transients that come through and the people who invade from California, the people on the Western Slope and resort communities have different interests and values that don’t necessarily coincide with the people in Boulder,” said Allen Bacher, who serves as the treasurer on the Summit County Republicans Central Committee. “… The interests of Grand and Routt and Eagle and Summit County are far different from the people in Boulder.”
Bruce Butler, a former Silverthorne mayor who currently pens a conservative column for the Summit Daily News, said the new map would likely keep a status quo throughout the state and that there were arguments to be made for connecting Summit County into both the Front Range and Western Slope.
“I think in terms of how the counties break out in terms of their Republican/Democrat leaning, we’re going to be somewhat tied into the Front Range,” Butler said. “There is something to be said for that, as well, in that more traffic comes from the east than the west. But I think having a strong voice on the Western Slope for water issues and things like that is really important. … I think this (map) certainly makes a little more sense in terms of its continuity, but it also kind of protects the current balance of power.”
Community leaders also expressed concerns regarding the most recent legislative redistricting maps. Currently, Summit County sits in Senate District 8, represented by Republican Bob Rankin, and House District 61, which is represented by Democrat Julie McCluskie.
The latest proposed maps would move Summit into Democrat Sen. Kerry Donovan’s District 5 along with Pitkin, Lake, Eagle and part of Garfield County. Meanwhile, Summit County would again face a split in the House district map, with the northern and western parts of the county heading to District 26 and the southeast of the county heading into District 46.
Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said the split between house districts could create noncompetitive districts that would impact the quality of representation for Summit County residents.
“One proposed district swings heavily Democratic and one swings heavily Republican,” Pogue said. “I just don’t see any rhyme or reason as to where the line is drawn, but I’m concerned that it really will make for a scenario where Summit County doesn’t have effective representation because, arguably, we’ll have one state (representative) almost always voting against the other. That cancels out Summit County’s representation in the statehouse.”
“They’re clearly playing the numbers game to try and get balanced numbers of citizens in each district,” Butler added. “It would be better for Summit County to not be cut in half. … In the end, if that’s how it ended up, I don’t think that’s necessarily terribly bad for Summit in that there’s some commonality even though you’re jumping the divide a little bit. But having said that, I do think for voters it becomes a bit confusing where you’re at. But, hey, part of voting is educating yourself, too.”
The maps aren’t yet final, and the commissions could release updated versions before the congressional deadline Oct. 1 or legislative deadline Oct. 15. The Colorado Supreme Court must approve the new plans by Dec. 15 for congressional redistricting and Dec. 29 for legislative redistricting.
Community members can submit public comment on the redistricting commissions’ website at Redistricting.colorado.gov.
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