SAN LUIS VALLEY — In a final meeting that lasted roughly six hours with the sixth and final vote reaching consensus held just minutes before the midnight deadline, the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission finally agreed on the map that, pending approval by the Colorado Supreme Court, will establish the eight new Congressional districts in the state of Colorado.
The district boundary lines generally give the current officeholders a strong chance of holding their seats with four Democratic districts, three Republican districts and the eighth district drawn as a swing district that leans slightly to the left.
Some Democratic observers were dissatisfied with the map finally approved by the commission, with one political consultant stating that having a fourth district that could potentially swing conservative is “absurd” in a state that elected Joe Biden by a 13-point percentage.
David Pourshoushtari, spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party, said that political competitiveness — one of the criteria to be used in drawing districts — came “almost exclusively at the expense of the Democrats.”
In the course of discussions, political competitiveness was a consideration as the discussion grew tense at various times. But it was not the only consideration as, at one point, one map was being supported by two Republicans and two Democrats.
Ultimately, population, the criteria with the strictest requirements allowing a deviation of only one person, was a key determining factor. Also, in a strong nod to one very important community of interest, the eighth Congressional district is heavily Hispanic, something that has not existed in prior existing Congressional districts in Colorado.
As far as the San Luis Valley was concerned, some pundits said that the third district as drawn on the new map is a “win” for U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, the ultra-conservative Republican from Garfield County, as several strong liberal communities like Lake County and Steamboat Springs were cut out of CD 3 and strong Republican counties on the Eastern Plains — specifically, Las Animas, Otero and Crowley — were added.
Boebert, a first-term member of Congress, was elected by a margin of 6 percentage points in November of 2020. The new map favors her by 9 points, based on previous voting results.
Also, Democrat and State Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail, who had already raised more than $1 million in a bid for the nomination to run against Boebert, was drawn out of CD 3 and put in CD 2, represented by Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse. Donovan could still take on Boebert since members of Congress don’t have to live in the district they represent.
However, unlike previous maps where they had been drawn out, Sol Sandoval Tafoya and State Rep. Donald Valdez now clearly reside in the newly drawn CD 3 where they hope to challenge Boebert in 2022.
There were numerous references by members of the commission to specific comments they had heard from the public and a genuine, collective motivation to abide by strong requests they had heard in both comments and testimony. There was also sincere appreciation expressed for the level of involvement by the people of Colorado with the submission of roughly 170 maps drawn and submitted by members of the public, organizations and various groups along with more than 5,000 comments submitted by individuals online.
The commissioners held twice as many hearings with the public as what was required and continued to participate in meetings, even if that was done “from a hospital room,” while “at a funeral” or “in a car by the side of the road while on vacation with the family.”
The complicated and sometimes tense process lasted more than six months. Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters spoke highly of each other throughout it.
The proposed Congressional map moves on to the Colorado Supreme Court for judicial review.