DENVER (AP) – Colorado Republicans are furious over proposed Democratic-drawn districts that pit several incumbents against each other in 2012 races, forcing GOP leaders in the House and Senate to face members of their own party while potentially stirring the Legislature’s power balance.
The partisan dispute over control of the Colorado Legislature boiled over Monday as Democrats and Republicans on a commission bickered and accused of each other of political gamesmanship as they tried to comply with a court order to redraw district lines.
Pairing same-party incumbents in next year’s contests could increase Democrats’ five-vote advantage in the Senate and jeopardize Republicans’ one-vote edge in the House.
“This is just a travesty and unjust,” said Mario Nicolais, an attorney and one of the GOP’s key map drawers on the 11-member commission made up of five Republicans, five Democrats and unaffiliated panel Chair Mario Carrera. Nicolais blasted Carrera, accusing him of being on the Democrats’ side during the months-long process and bending procedural rules in their favor.
“He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Nicolais said.
Carrera was the deciding vote on a decision not to consider more amendments to current proposals that Republicans say could’ve lead to a compromise. The commission has other proposals they can vote on Tuesday, but Nicolais was pessimistic about Republicans’ chances, saying it appears that the panel is “going to stick it to us tomorrow.”
Nicolais promised to take his case to court.
Carrera declined to respond to Nicolais comments, saying only that the commission is “working on passing a map that meets the constitutional requirements that the court asked us to review and that’s really the goal.”
The maps the commission submitted to the Supreme Court in September would have put 33 of the Legislature’s 100 seats in races considered to be competitive. The court rejected the maps, ruling that too many counties were split while trying to make more races competitive.
The court ordered the commission to redraw and resubmit maps by Dec. 6. Redrawing state legislative districts happens every 10 years to reflect population changes.
Under the Democratic maps, seven House districts would pair incumbents. Four Senate incumbents would battle for two seats. GOP House Leader Amy Stephens would face Republican Rep. Marsha Looper in El Paso County. Senate GOP Leader Bill Cadman would run against Republican Rep. Keith King, also in El Paso County.
Three other proposed House districts also pair a Republican incumbent versus a Republican incumbent.
Democrats insist their goal is to follow the court’s direction to minimize county splits.
“Incumbency is not a constitutional requirement,” said Dolores Atencio, a Democratic commissioner.
The guidelines the commission must follow to redraw districts include keeping communities of interest together, keeping cities and towns whole and avoiding diluting minority voting power.
Atencio said Democrats are also affected by their proposal, noting that incumbent Rep. Roger Wilson will likely lose his Western Slope seat because it becomes more Republican when he faces a GOP incumbent.
“Both Democrats and Republicans incumbents are hurt by the court’s decision that you have to apply a mathematical formula, period,” she said.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer.
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