South Jeffco lands in Dem-leaning congressional district

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GOP appeals map placing area in same district with Denver

By Emile Hallez

South Jeffco has been lumped in with Denver in a congressional redistricting map approved Nov. 10 by state Judge Robert Hyatt, placing a largely conservative area into a Democratic stronghold — at least for now.

Much of the southern unincorporated portion of the county, formerly in Congressional District 6 and represented by Republican Mike Coffman, is currently in Democrat Diana Degette’s territory.

But last week Republicans appealed Hyatt’s decision, an expected move after many in the party referred to the criteria for the new district’s boundaries as “unconstitutional.” A ruling by the state Supreme Court is likely to come Dec. 1.

“It’s hard to be supportive of his decision,” Jefferson County Republican Party chairman Don Ytterberg said. “I don’t think it does anything but borrow population from Jefferson to fill out the numbers.”

Specifically, large swaths of the CD6 in the old map were split between CD1 and CD2, both of which are represented by Democrats.

Ytterberg chided Hyatt’s ruling, noting that he thought it placed an undue emphasis on making individual districts more competitive. Rather, lines should have been redrawn in a way that kept communities, specifically Jefferson County, from being unnecessarily divided, he said.

“There is no basis for Judge Hyatt’s use of the term ‘competitiveness’ in constructing congressional districts,” Ytterberg said. “He labored over defining ‘competitiveness’ … as his basis for making a decision.”

In his ruling, Hyatt explained that the addition of much of South Jeffco to CD1 preserved communities of interest, specifically because the area shares a similar housing and economic base with Denver.

“Adding these areas to the 1st Congressional District equalized population in the 1st Congressional District without splitting cities in the north,” Hyatt stated in the ruling.

Though the new map arguably makes CD6 more competitive for Democrats, placing in it a larger percentage of the party’s registered voters, the move did little to make CD1 more competitive for conservatives, Ytterberg said.

“I don’t think District 1 becomes particularly more advantageous for the Republicans,” he said. “Jefferson County is the largest district in the state that has been broken up this way. … It seems that it’s been gratuitously split to negate the effect of certain voters.”

Ideally, he said, public comments would have played a more influential role in the decision, a standard he said he hopes will factor into the next redistricting process in 10 years.

Democrats, however, welcomed Hyatt’s ruling.

“I can’t say I’m going to miss Mike Coffman,” Jefferson County Democratic chairman Chris Kennedy said. “We just wanted to see competitive districts, and I feel like that map gave us those.”

The 2012 election could prove slightly more challenging for DeGette, though the district remains mostly safe for Democrats, Kennedy said.

“Diana DeGette is going to have to work a little harder … but the district still leans pretty heavily Democratic.”

Coffman could not be reached for comment, and a representative from DeGette’s office said the congresswoman would not comment on Hyatt’s decision.


Contact Emile Hallez at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.