April 19, 2011
DENVER — Anyone who expected political bloodshed Tuesday night at the legislative redistricting hearing was disappointed by the end of the meeting, when the 10-member bipartisan committee decided to begin anew by picking out counties and areas that both parties agreed on.
Toward the end of the three-hour meeting, Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, pointed to one of the Republicans’ biggest concerns — keeping El Paso County intact — and Democrats said they were open to the idea.
Committee member Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, said the conclusion left him hopeful.
“Their answer was yes, that they’re not wed to the idea that Republican strongholds must be split up,” said Scheffel. “I’m encouraged because I heard tonight that those are not non-negotiable issues.”
Prior to the meeting, it seemed as though the five Republicans and five Democrats would simply spend hours battling over district lines and priorities, given that their suggested maps are worlds apart. Republicans drew maps that retained the same basic shape of the current districts, while Democrats changed the districts wildly.
At the beginning, it seemed that bitter partisanship would override the hearing. The afternoon began with fingerpointing over whose maps best served Colorado, with Republicans pushing district unity and Democrats supporting competitive districts.
Brophy said sarcastically that the Democrats hadn’t considered conflicting values of different counties when they drew their maps.
“I didn’t hear one person from Moffat or Mesa County say they want to be in the same district as Boulder,” he said, referring to a statewide tour the committee took over the past month and a half to solicit public input.
Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, complained that the Republican maps would tear apart Hispanic communities, leaving them without any real political voice. The Republican maps were “downright wrong,” he said.
Republicans charged that the Democratic maps were too centered on the front range. Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, pointed out that under the Democrats’ maps, Congressional District 3 spreads from the southern part of the west slope to the eastern state border and up nearly to Aurora.
“We’re just a different breed of cat. We love you, but we don’t want you representing us in Washington,” said Coram.
The agreement to start a new map with areas that the sides agree on didn’t go easily though. The Democrats repeatedly suggested both parties put forward only one map apiece to look for points in common, but the Republicans insisted on comparing all maps.
The Democrats finally agreed, though several were visibly irked by the compromise.
The committee will meet again tonight. Their deadline to finish a map is Thursday.