State Senate President Brandon Shaffer wants a seat in Congress and he'll do anything to ensure the district he runs in is favorable towards him. On Friday, Shaffer's campaign filed an amicus brief with the Denver district court encouraging the court to use one of the Congressional redistricting maps submitted by Democrat Pueblo DA Bill Thiebaut. Coincidentally, and unlike the formal filing by the state Democrat Party, that map happens to be one of the very few maps submitted to the court that includes Shaffer's house in Longmont in the 4th Congressional District (CD).
In the long running saga known as redistricting, what started with a Brandon-Mander has now been followed by the Brandon Brief.
Redistricting is the decennial process of redrawing Colorado’s seven Congressional district lines based on population changes identified in the Census. Originally meant to be resolved through a bipartisan committee in the Legislature, when legislators failed to reach a deal the issue was forced into the courts.
Shaffer’s brief is a pretty brazen move, making Shaffer the only candidate or incumbent to file a motion with the court. Candidates and incumbents are generally expected to stay away from the process, since they have a very clear vested interest in the outcome. It also follows on the heels of Shaffer's attempt to "Brandon-Mander" a 4th CD during the bipartisan redistricting process that failed in the Legislature, largely due to Shaffer's refusal to compromise on any map that didn't improve his electoral chances.
Shaffer's rapacious ambition led him to pursue one of the stranger legislative strategies in recent memory, actually filibustering his own redistricting map in the waning days of the legislative session.
His legislative maneuvers were all for naught, with the state Democrat Party submitting maps to the court that actually drew Shaffer's home out of the 4th CD. Legally, candidates for Congress are not required to live in the district they seek to represent, but undoubtedly Shaffer wants to avoid the charge of carpetbagger.
After the odd sight of the highest ranking legislative Democrat in Colorado getting screwed by his own party, comes the equally bizarre move of Shaffer filing a court brief opposing his own party's map. In the world of Democrat redistricting strategy, it appears it's every politician for themselves.
With his own party sticking a fork in his electoral chances, Shaffer's campaign is hoping the Denver district court takes pity on him and endorses Thiebaut's second map. The amicus brief filed by Shaffer basically begs for mercy, using twisted readings of previous court decisions that basically amount to: please draw me a district I can win in….and oh…don't make me drive to Baca County.
One of the more far fetched analyses in the filing is an attempt to tell the court that everyone has been misinterpreting the pivotal Court ruling known as Carstens v Lamm, a ruling that required, among other things, the Eastern Plains be considered a community of interest that needed to be kept whole. In his twisted logic, Shaffer is attemting to get the Eastern Plains split into two, helping rid him of conservative voters and a long drive down to Southeast Colorado.
For all the fun redistricting attorneys will have with Shaffer's strange campaign tactics it's just another reminder of how screwed Shaffer's campaign really is in the 4th CD. The incumbent, Congressman Cory Gardner, has been the strongest fundraiser in the Congressional delegation in 2011 and has risen quickly in the ranks in Washington. When the Democrat Party virtually abandoned Shaffer's campaign in their redistricting map it was a sign they didn't see a path to victory for him. Shaffer's amicus brief is a sad and desperate attempt to have the courts of Colorado create that a path to victory that can appear no other way.
As far as Shaffer's increasingly quixotic bid for Congress goes — if the judicial Brandon-Mander fails, his bid to divide and conquer the Eastern Plains will ensure that he never, ever gets a vote in that part of the world.
You can read the full amicus brief here.