3rd House seat set for Mesa County
DENVER — Mesa County would pick up an additional seat in the Colorado House under a map approved Monday by a state panel redrawing legislative district lines.
Dividing the county to include all or part of three House districts was necessary because of changes in other parts of the state, specifically keeping Grand County with the rest of the Western Slope, said Gayle Berry, a member of the 11-member Colorado Reapportionment Commission.
Berry, a former House member from Grand Junction, said the maps the panel approved aren’t perfect but meet nearly all of the goals she set out to achieve for this side of the Continental Divide when the commission began its work earlier this year.
The only part that she said gives her heartburn is the inclusion of Ouray and eastern San Miguel counties in House District 59, which she said isn’t a very good fit with La Plata and Archuleta counties.
Beyond that, though, Berry said while some Mesa County folks won’t be pleased with splitting the county three ways, there are benefits to having an additional lawmaker.
“I initially was very frustrated to see a three-way split in Mesa County, but then I realized that in order to get more positive things elsewhere on the Western Slope we had to have it,” she said. “And when you look at the communities of interest, it does make sense. Frankly, the way all these rural counties work together, it’s good to give Mesa another voice.”
Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, agreed, saying having a third House member will give the Grand Valley a greater voice in Denver.
“We’ll now have an additional, brand-new body of the 65 (House members) who’s going to have to know what’s going on in Mesa County,” Bradford said. “That’s why I see it as a plus — three bodies instead of two paying attention to issues regarding Mesa County.”
The panel, which approved the House map on an 8–3 vote and a Senate map on a 9–2 vote, will send the maps to the Colorado Supreme Court, which is to review them to ensure they pass constitutional muster. The dissenting votes were cast by Republican members of the panel.
The court will accept briefs opposing or supporting the map until Nov. 9. The high court will have until Dec. 14 to approve the maps as they are, or send them back to the commission for changes.
The commission considered several other versions of the maps, including one that would have put Grand Junction in its own House district and another one that called for dividing Delta County three ways.
Other versions also had Bradford’s House District 55 including a good chunk of western Garfield County, Rep. Roger Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs, representing the eastern half of Delta County, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, taking on the southern half of Gunnison County.
But the commission’s chairman and sole unaffiliated member, Mario Carrera, erased all that when he introduced new maps that were a merger of those backed by the five Democrats and the five Republicans on the panel.
“Combined in the Senate and the House, there are 55 consensus seats (proposed by members of both parties), 13 Democratic-drawn districts, 18 Republican-drawn districts and 14 new districts in the whole 100-member Legislature,” he said.
In addition, Carrera said his maps create the most competitive districts of any the panel considered. He said the maps the commission approved create 33 competitive districts — 22 in the House and 11 in the Senate — that are in line with the one-third of the state’s voters who aren’t affiliated with any political party.
The change also means the additional House district that will reach into Mesa County will be an open seat because the House member who currently represents House District 57, Rep. Randy Baumbardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, lives in the newly drawn House District 63.
If Baumgardner wants to remain in the House, he would have to run for it against another member, Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillion.
The Senate map was of little surprise. It gives Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, all of Mesa County, and shrinks the district now represented by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, still including the eastern half of Delta County.