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March 15, 2011
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Eagle County's representation in Congress might change

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Should Eagle County have a different congressional representative? Some locals think so, and this spring is provides a once-in-a-decade chance to make that change.

One primary jobs of the national census is to determine population distribution in order to draw congressional districts. Colorado didn't grow enough in the past decade to earn another congressional seat, but the population moved around enough to require re-drawing district maps.

In 2001, the census gave Colorado another seat in Congress, but a politically charged redistricting process put Eagle County in the 2nd Congressional District, which has Boulder as its population center. For many years before that, Eagle County had been in the 3rd Congressional District, which counts Grand Junction and Pueblo as its major cities.

A group of Republicans from Eagle and Summit counties are going to a March 15 meeting in Boulder to try to convince the state's 10-member redistricting committee that the mountain counties should be in a congressional district with similar counties.

Kaye Ferry, a Vail resident and the chairwoman of the Eagle County Republican Party, said she thinks there's a "really good" chance Eagle County could be shifted from the Second District.

"All the districts have to change quite a bit," Ferry said.

A letter Ferry wrote to the redistricting committee asks only that "Eagle County be included in a district with which we have more in common," something she reiterated in a Monday interview.

Ferry said Monday that she was struck by how different the 2nd District's Front Range and mountain counties were when she was campaigning last year for a seat on the Colorado Board of Education.

"It's amazing how little we have in common," she said.

The emphasis on "common interests" has been raised in other districts, too, to the extent that a pair of Republican legislators has introduced a bill that would require judges to consider "communities of interest" if the state's redistricting committee's work ends up in court. That bill was only introduced last week and hasn't had its first committee hearing.

"We certainly don't want this referred to the courts," Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Peterson said. But, she added, the Western Slope lobbying group believe that rural counties should be kept together if possible.

"It's critical that communities of interest are considered in this process," she said.

If Eagle County ends up in a new district, a probable move would be to go back to the 3rd District. Since the 1990s, that district has been represented by two Democrats - Ben Nighthorse Campbell and John Salazar - and two Republicans - Scott McInnis and Scott Tipton, who holds the seat now.

Current representatives have little to do with the redistricting process, but Tipton spokesman Josh Green said his boss would welcome the opportunity to represent the Vail area.

"There are a lot of issues (for Eagle County) that are more in line with those of the 3rd District than the 2nd," Green said.

But in an informal meeting a few weeks ago, Polis said he hoped he could continue to represent the mountain counties in his district, and was eager to do just that.

Whether it's Tipton, Polis or someone else, Ferry wants a change, and hope others speak out, too.

"I'll just be happy if we get moved," she said.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Mar 15, 2011 12:33AM Published Mar 15, 2011 12:32AM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.