Nobody likes being called a racist. People especially don't appreciate it when that epithet is thrown at them with absolutely no cause, other than to score partisan points. And now the targets of that flagrantly false accusation are pushing back.

Last week former Denver Mayor and Reapportionment Commission member, Wellington Webb, accused Republicans of racist intentions on reapportionment based on faulty data.

Reapportionment is the biennial process where state House and Senate lines are redrawn to reflect population changes in the Census. Population counts must include all people, regardless of voting status, causing military members registered to vote in other states, illegal immigrants and prisoners to be included. 

Webb had claimed a map for the metro area state House districts, which was supported by the GOP members and the Unaffiliated Chairman Mario Carerra, purposely put an Arapahoe County prison into HD37 in order to make it a "minority influence district." Nobody had ever called HD37 such a thing, and data supplied by Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson proved the prison population had absolutely zero effect on the percent of minorities in the district. 

When confronted with these facts by The Denver Post's Tim Hoover, Webb refused to back off his allegations that Republicans were using minorities "for political gain." Despite proof that his allegations were baseless, Webb has so far refused to apologize. 

Now the backlash is beginning with legislators reacting furiously to the slanderous accusations.

Senator Greg Brophy (R-Wray), a member of the Congressional redistricting committee, saw Wellington Webb's unfounded attacks as a sign that Democrats were failing to get what they wanted on reapportionment through reasoned argument, causing them to resort to name calling. "When you can't beat them with ideas, call them racists. Typical tactic of the Left," he told the Peak.

Representative Spencer Swalm (R-Centennial), who currently represents HD37, was severely disappointed in the former Mayor's accusations and use of the prison population as a political football. "Wellington Webb, in his unfounded accusations about the reapportionment process concerning convicts housed in Arapahoe County jails, apparently wants the reapportionment process reduced to a mechanical process of counting and dividing people based on the color of their skin-regardless of the content of their character," said Swalm. "The citizens of House District 37 and the state of Colorado deserve better."

Representative Chris Holbert (R-Parker) explicitly called on Webb to apologize for his untruthful and slanderous accusations. Holbert told the Peak he was disappointed Webb thought it necessary to "question the motives of his colleagues, and insult the Arapahoe County Sheriff. We all make mistakes, but if he hasn't done so already, I hope that he will pick up the phone and call Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson to offer an apology."

Normally a quiet and insider baseball-heavy process, Webb's outburst last week has pushed the reapportionment process to the forefront.

Republicans don't take being called racist by a leader in the African American community lightly. It is a serious charge, and one that should never be thrown around simply for petty partisan gain.

If Mayor Webb doesn't correct course soon, he could quickly find himself completely sidelined for the rest of the reapportionment process.