DENVER (AP) – Colorado Republicans said Wednesday they’ll challenge a judge’s ruling on proposed congressional lines that give Democrats a chance to unseat two GOP incumbents, including one in a district always held by the party.
Republicans called the ruling last week by a Denver District judge flawed, saying it makes drastic changes to districts in favor of competitiveness. The GOP had argued that minimal changes were needed to the current congressional lines in place for the last 10 years.
Judge Robert Hyatt blasted the Republican plan, calling it a disservice to voters and saying it ignored demographic changes in Colorado over the previous decade.
“If the focus was limited entirely to that factor, and a map drawn with only that factor in mind, with all else as afterthought and rationalization, this entire enterprise would require no more than a five-minute computer generated exercise,” Hyatt said.
He chose a Democrat-sponsored map that gives the party a new edge in the heavily Republican district held by U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman. Coffman’s suburban Denver district would include all of Aurora and put Republican-leaning portions of his district into the eastern plains seat held by Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner.
The rural 3rd District on the Western Slope held by Republican Rep. Scott Tipton would become slightly more competitive than it already is.
The Legislature failed to agree on new district lines this spring, and both parties sued.
Republicans also objected to how the proposed map puts northern Larimer County, currently represented by Gardner, in the Democratic stronghold of Rep. Jared Polis in the 2nd District. The judge said making the change in the 2nd District helps the University of Colorado in Boulder and Colorado State University in Fort Collins because they would be represented by one member of Congress who could focus on educational issues shared by both colleges.
Hyatt also said Aurora should be represented by one person, instead of keeping the city split between the 6th and 7th districts. Republicans submitted an additional map that put Aurora in one district, the 7th, but Hyatt said that would pair Coffman with another incumbent.
The Latino population, the state’s fastest growing, also played a role in Hyatt’s decision. Latinos now account for one-fifth of Colorado’s population, compared with 17 percent in 2000.
“Competitiveness is particularly important for the Latino community because it gives them a voice in districts where the outcome of the election is close,” Hyatt said.
But Republicans have argued the Democratic proposal actually dilutes Hispanic voting strength.
Hyatt said the Democrat’s proposal makes three districts competitive, with each nearly evenly split among Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters. Those districts are the 3rd, the 6th, and the 7th.
In his ruling, he said the Democratic map made few changes to the districts 1, 3, and 5.
Mark Grueskin, the attorney representing Democrats, said last week that Hyatt’s ruling is “sound and extremely defensible.”
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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