Randy Wyrck
rwyrick@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

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May 5, 2011
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Dems' new congessional map would split Eagle County

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Local Republicans and Democrats agree: They both hate state Democrats' new congressional district plan, the so-called "Colorado Compromise."

The plan would politically split Eagle County into two different congressional districts.

Vail Valley Republicans would stay in the heavily Democratic 2nd Congressional anchored in Boulder, and represented by Boulder Democrat Jared Polis.

Roaring Fork Valley Democrats would land in the Republican-leaning 3rd Congressional District, and represented by Republican Scott Tipton.

Harvie Branscomb, co-chair of Eagle County's Democrats, lives in the Roaring Fork Valley. He was about to testify against it in the state Capitol Thursday afternoon when we caught up with him.

"It's bad news. Long ago we said Eagle County should not be split," said Harvie Branscomb, co-chair of Eagle County's Democrats. "What I described is different from what is on the compromise and I will be arguing against it."

In one of the Democrats' first shots at redrawing congressional districts, released last month, Polis's district was gerrymandered to include Grand Junction. Grand Valley Republicans screamed like their hair was on fire.

"Half of Boulder doesn't want to be involved with Boulder, so I understand why Grand Junction was so upset," said Kaye Ferry, Republican chair of the 2nd Congressional District, and Eagle County Republican chair. "In all honesty, Eagle and Summit County have been acting like Democrats, so why not throw us in with Boulder? I don't like that, but I understand it."

Jill Hunsaker-Ryan is the new co-chair of Eagle County's Democrats.

"We want Eagle County to stick together in Jared Polis's district," said Hunsaker-Ryan.

Each state's congressional districts are supposed to be altered every 10 years, reflecting population shifts found by the U.S. Census.

Communities of interest are supposed to go together, like farming and ranching areas, or ski resort areas. Districts are also supposed to have about the same population.

When the 2011 Colorado legislature got down to business in January, state lawmakers formed a bipartisan redistricting committee to deal with it. The stated goal was to keep Colorado's congressional maps out of court, where the fight has been settled for the last 30 years, and where it's likely headed again this time.

The redistricting committee and those who would influence it traveled the state on a "listening tour," giving and getting input.

"Democrats have been working with Republicans on a compromise map that is responsive to the issues raised by the public while creating and maintaining competitive districts," said state senator Rollie Heath, a Boulder Democrat and Joint Redistricting Committee co-chair.

It was just a show, say local Republicans.

"The show that the committee put on by pretending to listen to the people has been a slap in the face," said John Rosenfeld, first vice chair of the Eagle County Republican Party. "We are not being heard by the people who are supposed to be representing us."

The last time states redrew their congressional districts, following the 2000 census, 40 states went in court, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. About a dozen states are already in court this year.

Let's say miracles happen and Colorado lawmakers agree on a map before the 2011 legislative session ends next week. Lawsuits will surely follow, as they have for the last 30 years.

Lawmakers could also volunteer to return to the Capitol for a special redistricting session, or Gov. John Hickenlooper could order them back.

"It's important that we try to get this done through the legislative process. Let's break the 30-year trend of sending this to court," Heath said.

"It's a long way from being settled," countered Ferry. "If it goes to the Colorado Supreme Court it will lean toward the Democrats. But I do not believe for a second that the state's high court look at it and say 'Good job.'"

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated May 5, 2011 07:21PM Published May 5, 2011 07:21PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.