DENVER (AP) – U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton testified Monday that his sprawling district in southern and western Colorado is unified by rural and agricultural interests and does not need to change drastically, while political parties spar in a lawsuit to adjust congressional lines.

The freshman Republican congressman also said after his testimony that the 3rd District, which spans an area the size of Arkansas, is one that either party can win in its current form.

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Tipton was testifying as part of a lawsuit filed by Democrats and Republicans over what the state’s congressional districts should look like to reflect population changes during the past 10 years. The Colorado Legislature was charged this spring with coming up with new districts, but the matter landed in court because lawmakers failed to reach an agreement.

Tipton said issues regarding water, energy, and his district’s vast range of public lands link his constituents, and he opposes plans that would disrupt those dynamics. For example, Tipton said he’s against a proposal to put Greeley, which is in northern Colorado, in his district, saying that city’s economic profile is different than the areas he now represents.

“This is a district that seems to work,” Tipton said about his district’s current form.

The trial is expected to conclude this week and the verdict could affect the races in three districts now held by Republicans, including Tipton’s. State House Democratic Leader Sal Pace is running against him.

Democratic state Rep. Joe Miklosi is challenging Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in Denver’s southern suburbs, currently a GOP stronghold. Democratic state Senate President Brandon Shaffer is running against Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in eastern Colorado, which has traditionally favored the GOP.

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A Denver District judge is considering about a half-dozen maps, including proposals from Republicans, Democrats and other political interest groups.

Democrats have argued that the state should have more competitive districts, but Republicans accuse them of jockeying for an advantage to gain more seats. Republicans hold four of Colorado’s seven congressional seats. In 2008, Democrats had five of the seven seats.

“If your point is you want to be competitive, that’s pretty doggone competitive, to be able to see those sorts of turns,” Tipton said after testifying.

Tipton, who took office after defeating Democrat John Salazar last year, also said voters in the 3rd District don’t have a strict allegiance to either party. For decades, the district has frequently changed from one party to another.

Other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation are expected to testify later this week.

– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer

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