The Republicans just released their map, drawing a line in the sand over protecting rural representation and offering a chance for compromise. Now the Democrats need to decide: do they want to compromise or do they want to end up in the courts? How they choose could have a great impact on the political fortunes of Democrats representing rural Colorado.
In the Republican map, there is no chance that all seven congressional representatives could be neighbors, running into each other at the same grocery store. Their map ensures a voice in Congress for rural Colorado and makes modest line shifts to account for population growth. Denver is whole. El Paso is whole. Chaffee is in the 3rd CD, which was overwhelmingly supported by (Democrat) residents at the Alamosa public hearing on redistricting. And they even threw a bone to Sal Pace by keeping CD3 competitive.
It is clear they listened to the public, preserving communities of interest, and even offered some concessions to Democrats in the hopes of finding a bipartisan compromise.
The Democrats map is a whole 'nother ball game. It has succeeded in causing much heartburn for Democrats representing rural Colorado. There is no political divide in rural Colorado — just anger with Democrats' plan to disenfranchise them in one fell swoop of the redistricting pen. As we've pointed out before, prominent liberals have come out against the Democrat plan to divide the West Slope.
Sources are telling us that a number of House Democrats are not happy with the map their party has proposed, and some are considering voting against the Dem map in protest. On the other side, we haven't heard any predictions or scuttlebutt, not a skosche, that any Republicans oppose the Republican map.
If the Democrats don't back away from the ledge, they will push the process into the courts. Some conventional wisdom says that is to their advantage since the courts are packed with Dem appointees, but the Washington Post piece on Colorado redistricting this morning says not so fast:
Democrats, though, may stand to gain from continuing to push for big changes. If the sides deadlock and can’t come to an agreement, the map will go to the courts — and the state Supreme Court is dominated by Democratic appointees.
At the same time, legislators as a rule don’t like that option, because it takes the decision-making power out of their hands. What’s more, the courts are usually opposed to wholesale changes, unless there is a compelling reason to make them.
Democrats say their proposal is workable because it makes the map more competitive, but it seems entirely possible that a Democratic-leaning Supreme Court may be content with something similar to the current map — i.e. the GOP plan.
So Democrats have a choice: they can get their leadership to work out a bipartisan solution with Republicans that protects rural representation in Congress or they can let the process end up in the courts, where they are sure to enrage their constituencies. And even then the Republicans’ map could get chosen.
Will Democrats risk alienating their constituents all for the chance that courts back their leaderships’ map? Will Sal Pace give up his political future to make Brandon Shaffer happy?