The Colorado Reappor-tionment Commission recently wrapped up its work of redrawing state legislative boundaries to reflect the 2010 census figures. What began as a collaborative, bipartisan process ended on a bitter note, with five Democrats and the commission’s unaffiliated chairman pushing through a very partisan map on party-line votes.
Observers decried the process, noting its one-sidedness and imbalanced result. The Denver Post weighed in with an editorial, calling for an end to “power plays” in state mapping. Republicans predictably cried foul, noting that the maps vindictively and unnecessarily put a disproportionate number of GOP incumbents together.
And then something unexpected happened. At a town meeting, Hickenlooper was asked about his views on reapportionment. Most governors in his position — Republican or Democrat — wouldn’t have touched the issue with a 10-foot pole. While few would defend their party’s indefensible actions, neither would they offer any criticism. One would expect an artful deflection, a change of subject.
Not Hick. He basically said what everybody was thinking, including a large number of people in his party. According to a video of the speech posted by whosaidyousaid.com, here’s what he said: “I think a little more time and a little more process would have gotten us a better result … I think that the bitterness of, I think the Democrats could have, you know … I think there was a way to do it without creating all those primaries. And I’m disappointed.”
Make no mistake about it, the governor is taking heat in his own party for those remarks. As with all partisans, parties expect their members to cover for them in all circumstances. “My party, right or wrong,” as they say.
But Hickenlooper is not that kind of guy. He’ll stand by his party when it’s right and call it out when it’s wrong. And so far, he seems to be putting the needs of the state above all else.
That’s called leadership. It's the same leadership this governor has shown when making tough decisions on the budget, making balanced appointments to state government, and keeping an arm's-length distance from the more radical elements of his own party. It’s the kind of leadership our country and state need now more than ever.
I’m under no illusion that I will agree with Governor Hickenlooper on everything. But for now, count me among those conservative Republicans who are pleasantly surprised with his brand of leadership.
Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-author of the book, “The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care.”