New Districts for Voters in Colorado Are Approved
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DENVER -- Under a new map of Colorado Congressional districts approved on Monday by the state's highest court, a once-safe Republican seat in the Sixth District, which had been spread across a sprawling area south of Denver, got tucked in tighter toward the city's edge, making it much more Hispanic and politically diverse.
"It goes from fairly safe Republican to probably competitive," said Professor Ken Bickers, the chairman of the political science department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The seat is held by Representative Mike Coffman, a Republican, who replaced Tom Tancredo in 2008. Mr. Tancredo, a Republican who ran an unsuccessful independent bid for governor of Colorado last year, became a national spokesman in opposition to illegal immigration from his base in the district.
But the new map -- which was the subject of a court challenge by a county in Mr. Coffman's old district that was joined by Republicans around the state -- also appears to solidify some districts in favor of incumbents, Democrats and Republicans alike.
The Fourth District, for example, which includes most of eastern Colorado, has been ferociously competitive in recent elections, with Democrats in and around Fort Collins, about an hour north of Denver, balanced against Republicans in the more conservative rural farming country in the rest of the district.
The current representative, Cory Gardner, a Republican, defeated a Democrat, Betsy Markey, in 2010. Ms. Markey had defeated an incumbent Republican in 2008.
The new map shifts Fort Collins and other parts of Larimer County into the Second District, which is heavily Democratic already -- it includes the liberal enclave of Boulder -- making Mr. Gardner's district more uniformly Republican, Professor Bickers said. The map also makes the Second District, held by Representative Jared Polis, a Democrat, somewhat more diverse, while still probably leaning toward the Democrats, the professor said.
One clear winner on the new map is the state's third-largest city, Aurora, a suburban behemoth of 325,000 people on Denver's eastern edge, which had been carved up into different districts under the old map. The new map puts it squarely in Mr. Coffman's new district, giving the city its own distinct electoral voice for the first time. Aurora is almost 29 percent Hispanic, according to the 2010 census. Hispanics are among the fastest growing demographic sectors in Colorado and tend to vote for Democrats.
The state's Republican Party chairman, Ryan Call, said Mr. Coffman was eager to fight for his new district. "I am confident that he will win the support of his new constituents," Mr. Call said.
The new map, proposed by the Democrats, was selected last month by a Denver District Court judge, Robert S. Hyatt, after competing plans for incorporating the 2010 Census numbers failed to gain agreement.
The State Supreme Court, in its brief ruling on Monday affirming Judge Hyatt's order, said that a written opinion would follow.
First Published December 6, 2011 12:00 am