“Highly suspect” and “blatant gerrymandering” were just four of the many words the Garfield County Commissioners used to describe Colorado's latest congressional redistricting map.
In a letter dated Sept. 8 and addressed to the state’s congressional redistricting commission, all three Republican Garfield County commissioners lambasted the idea of splitting up the county into two different congressional districts.
The proposed map, illustrating the exact boundaries for the state’s soon-to-be eight congressional districts, was unveiled on Sept. 3 and another is expected to be released on Wednesday.
The final map must be approved by the Colorado Supreme Court no later than Dec. 15. However, prior to that date, the redistricting commission’s nonpartisan staff will continue to release updated maps based upon district data and public comment.
“It’s not just about Garfield County … It’s about all of rural Colorado. There’ll be 54 counties that won’t have a voice,” John Martin, Garfield County commissioner, said in an interview Monday. “One of the criteria for the redistricting is communities of common interest. How much common interest does, shall we say, Garfield or Rio Blanco or Moffat County have in store with Boulder County?”
The latest map places western Garfield County including the communities of Parachute, Rifle, Silt and New Castle into the state’s 2nd Congressional District, along with cities like Boulder. Currently, Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District — a seat previously held by now Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.
“Everybody has to be challenged. Everybody has to do a good job and you shouldn’t have just a safe seat that you never have to worry about. You have to work on it everyday,” Martin said. “That’s the competitiveness that they’re missing.”
While the more traditionally red portion of Garfield County would fall within the 2nd Congressional District’s boundary lines, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale more to the east would remain in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert.
From Garfield and Moffat to Larimer and Boulder counties, CD2, as proposed, would cover most of the state’s northwestern and north central terrain.
A preliminary redistricting plan was announced on June 23 that largely kept the Western Slope intact, in CD3.
However, the first map released on Sept. 3 did away with keeping the Western Slope together by instead cutting it almost in half.
“We heard a lot of requests for a southern district to be drawn rather than east west,” said Jeremiah Barry, Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions managing attorney. “The effect of drawing a southern district did split the Western Slope into two districts clearly. That’s what you have to do to draw a southern district.”
In addition to incorporating the southeast portion of Garfield County, CD3, as proposed, would also include all of Pitkin and Eagle counties as well as Mesa, Montrose, Gunnison and other counties farther to the south.
“They put western Garfield County into District 2 … That’s payback for Rep. Boebert,” said Tom Jankovsky, Garfield County Commissioner. “It’s gerrymandering. They cut her out of her district.”
In their letter to the redistricting commission, the Garfield County Commissioners contended that all of the Western Slope should remain in the 3rd Congressional District. Citing the local tourism, agriculture and natural extraction industries, the commissioners said Garfield County “shares little in common” with Boulder, Broomfield and parts of Larimer counties.
“I don’t like [Garfield] County being split in two, but even a bigger problem is putting us in a district with front range urban communities,” Jankovsky said. “It’s a huge problem.”