Early analysis of the preliminary draft of maps for the state Senate and House show that there will be plenty of competition, mostly between incumbents, and often within the same party.
What was released by Colorado's legislative redistricting commission on Tuesday is only a "starting point" map, like the preliminary draft congressional map released last week, and it will be changed in the coming months.
The maps were produced by the commission's staff, based on the several redistricting criteria required, including approximately equal population, compactness and contiguity of districts, abiding by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, respecting communities of interest, existing political subdivisions and natural boundaries, as well as promoting competitiveness where possible.
The commission will soon begin touring the state to collect public input on the preliminary draft maps, in order to make final adjustments.
The maps were also created using imperfect data, like the congressional maps, because the U.S. Census Bureau is late delivering the data required for redistricting to the states. The Census Bureau has said the final data will be ready in August. Because of the delay, the commission has used survey data and estimates to draw the preliminary draft maps.
In the House, the maps as drawn would see at least seven pairs of incumbent Democrats, including some of the most powerful members of the legislature, face off against each other in primaries.
The most notable of those matchups would see Joint Budget Committee Vice-Chair Julie McCluskie, D-Dillion, running against Rep. Dylan Roberts. The Avon Democrat chairs the Business Affairs and Labor Committee and carried some of the most impactful bills of the 2021 legislative session, including the Colorado Option health care bill signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis earlier this month.
The proposed maps would also put Democrats up against a wave of incumbent-on-incumbent primaries across traditionally blue hotbeds in the Denver metro area and Boulder.
In Jefferson County, Rep. Lisa Cutter of Littleton and Rep. Kerry Tipper of Lakewood have been drawn into the same district. In Arapahoe County, Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Greenwood Village, and Rep. David Ortiz, a Littleton Democrat who rounded out his first legislative session with a tweet describing his colleagues as family. Should the maps hold (Ortiz’s property bumps up against the border of the district he and Froelich are set to share), Ortiz will be fighting against a member of that family for his future as a state lawmaker.
The best families are the ones you don’t get to pick for yourself. Proud to be a part of this diverse and amazing crew of freshman legislators. It’s been an honor and privilege getting to learn and grow together. 🙌🏽♿️✊🏽🇺🇸💪🏽 SINE DIE!#coleg #copolitics #sinedie pic.twitter.com/NjmNpzugQB— David Ortiz (@DavidDOrtizCO) June 8, 2021
Other sitting House Democrats drawn into the same district include:
- Reps. Dominique Jackson and Naquetta Ricks, both of Aurora;
- Reps. Kyle Mullica of Northglenn and Yadira Caraveo of Thornton;
- Reps. Edie Hooton and Judy Amabile, both of Boulder;
- Rep. Matt Gray of Broomfield and Finance Committee Chair Shannon Bird of Westminster, both of whom drew primary threats after voting to kill a Democrat-backed pre-trial reform effort in the waning days of the legislative session.
In rural Colorado, Republicans who hold six seats have been drawn into three districts. That would pit Rep. Richard Holtorf of Akron against Rep. Rod Pelton of Cheyenne Wells. On the Western Slope, Rep. Marc Catlin of Montrose and Rep. Matt Soper of Delta have been drawn into the same district.
In central Colorado, Rep. Ron (Loren) Hanks of Cañon City is in the same district as Rep. Stephanie Luck of Penrose.
Two more sets of incumbent GOP lawmakers have been drawn into the same districts, though term limits will spare those House Republicans from an incumbent-on-incumbent primary.
In Colorado Springs, the preliminary maps put Rep. Andy Pico and term-limited Rep. Terri Carver into the same districts. The same goes for Douglas County, where term-limited Rep. Kim Ransom of Littleton would be in the same district as Rep. Mark Baisley of Roxborough Park.
The proposed maps would see only one incumbent-on-incumbent showdown should both lawmakers win their primaries. The new House District 38, straddling Interstate 25 south of Longmont, would pit rookie Reps. Tracey Bernett, D-Longmont, and Dan Woog, R-Erie, against each other.
One of the more interesting maps is for House District 65, currently represented by Rep. Iman Jodeh, an Aurora Democrat. The map shows a district that stretches from Aurora to northeastern Colorado, a traditionally red stronghold, including Fort Morgan, Sterling and all the way to the Colorado-Nebraska state line near Julesburg.
Then there’s roughly a dozen districts where it’s open season, where there are no incumbents. That includes the new House District 41 in southeastern and south-central Colorado. The district starts just east of Kim, in Las Animas County, moves north into Crowley and west into Pueblo County, then slips around the north end of Pueblo and then heads west to Westcliffe, in Fremont County.
House District 57 is northwestern Colorado, but its current incumbent, Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle, has been drawn into a district that includes most of Mesa County except for Grand Junction.
In terms of which party benefits the most, Republicans should be cheering. Currently, the House is a 41-24 Democratic advantage. Using party registration, the 2018 Attorney General's race and 2020 U.S. Senate race election outcomes, and counting as competitive the districts with a 5 percentage point margin or less, the House preliminary draft map would lead to between 31 and 35 solid Democratic districts, between 25 and 31 solid Republican districts, and between 3 and 5 competitive districts.
In the Senate, term limits means that a lot of the lawmakers drawn into the same districts won’t mean big changes. But that’s not true for everyone.
The most interesting may be in the new Senate District 21, where JBC Chair Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, is in the same district as Republican Sen. Kevin Priola of Henderson.
In Colorado Springs, Sen. Pete Lee, a Democrat, is drawn in the same district as Republican Sen. Larry Liston.
Like in the House, a district just south of Longmont would also see an incumbent-on-incumbent general election matchup if both lawmakers advance through a primary. The new Senate District 32 pits Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, against Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Brighton. Both were just elected to their first terms in 2020.
Then there’s Senate District 32 in Denver, home to both Sens. Chris Hansen and Robert Rodriguez, and both are nowhere near the end of their terms in office. Rodriguez runs again in 2022, Hansen in 2024.
One item on Republicans’ wish list has been to make the Eastern Plains more compact; previously Senate District 35, represented by Republican Sen. Cleave Simpson of Alamosa, stretched from the San Luis Valley to southeastern Colorado and north to Kiowa County.
The southeastern Colorado seat as envisioned by the preliminary map would be represented by Sen. Paul Lundeen of northern El Paso County, and in order to keep the population numbers up, draws from eastern Colorado Springs and eastern Douglas County.
Other districts where incumbents are drawn together:
- Sens. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village and Chris Kolker, a Centennial Democrat who just finished his first year in the legislature.
- Democratic Sens. Faith Winter of Westminster and Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada. Zenzinger is term-limited in 2024; Winter is interested in running for the new Congressional District 8 seat.
- Republican Sens. Chris Holbert of Douglas County and Jim Smallwood of Parker are in the same district, but Holbert is term-limited in 2022.
There are no incumbents in at least two Senate districts as proposed by the new maps: Senate District 15 in eastern Douglas County; and Senate District 19, which includes Columbine and Littleton. The incumbent in the area is Sen. Tammy Story of Conifer, whose district may have gotten a lot redder and which would make re-election in 2022 more difficult.
Using party registration, the 2018 Attorney General's race and 2020 U.S. Senate race election outcomes, and counting as competitive the districts with a 5 percentage point margin or less, the map would lead to between 19 and 21 solid Democratic seats, between 13 and 15 solid Republican seats and between zero and two competitive seats.
This article has been updated to correct the proposed District 65 and Rep. Jackson's hometown. In addition, because of an updated address, Democratic Reps. Alex Valdez and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez have not been drawn into the same district. Both Valdez and Gonzales-Gutierrez are the sole incumbents in their proposed districts.