Senate-floor shouting match was about control of 3rd Congressional District

You have to give it to the Democrats in Colorado. They are just plain meaner, tougher and more audaciously ruthless than we Republicans. It’s true. If politics is war by another means, Colorado Democrats fight with the lethal precision of Ghengis Khan.

Ask Ken Buck. Democrats spent around $10 million trying to convince Colorado that Buck was ambivalent on rape. It takes moxie (and no shame) to even contemplate making such an accusation. The ads were outrageous, unrelenting and brutally effective. Recall that women broke overwhelmingly against Buck in the closing weeks of the race.

Last year, my pal Libby Szabo, one of the many statehouse candidates who eventually unseated an incumbent Democrat, endured an orchestrated campaign by liberals to pressure the local DA to seek felony charges against Szabo for the high crime of — wait for it — using a knock-off of the state seal on a campaign mail piece. The whole effort was debunked and junked like the frivolous pile of rubbish that it was, but not before liberal groups unsheathed thousands of mailers and robodialers telling Szabo’s neighbors that she was facing felony charges.

And who could forget liberal 527s accusing Mesa County state Rep. Laura Bradford — a cancer survivor herself — of wanting to deny cancer screenings for women.

These guys will do anything to win. They’ve proved it. And let’s give them grudging respect. It has worked for the Democratic Party in this state, and worked well.

They make the Swiftboaters look like schoolyard jump-ropers.

All of which is prologue to what would seem like a totally unrelated story last week that got lots of traction in the Denver media. The co-chairs of a panel charged with drawing Colorado’s congressional maps for the next decade got into a shouting match on the Senate floor. The Democrats — being the First Amendment boosters that they are — had the Republican House member involved in the ruckus banished from the Democrat-controlled Senate chamber for the year.

A screaming match in the Senate. Open and shut. Right?

Not quite.

What was almost entirely unreported in all the coverage was the reason for the flap in the first place. The entire blow-up was driven by Aspen Democrat Sen. Gayle Schwartz, and her mini-campaign in the Capitol to make sure that redistricting hearings are not held in our conservative mecca, Grand Junction. Even though the greater Grand Junction area is the second largest voting bloc in the 3rd Congressional District, Schwartz wants no part of a hearing in Grand Junction.

Originally, the redistricting panel chose Glenwood Springs, ostensibly to shorten the drive time for Denver travelers. But after realizing the folly of excluding the largest community in the district from public input, most of the panel veered course and supported a trek to our own Happy Valley for a redistricting hearing.

Except, that is, Sen. Schwartz, who doesn’t even make a good effort at trying to hide her desire to dilute Mesa County’s voice.

And thus a shouting match was born.

Rep. David Balmer, the House Republican fighting for a Grand Junction hearing, took the public fall for the whole ordeal. He apologized for the shouting match. Fair enough.

But the real apology should come from Schwartz for trying to silence an entire community in the redistricting process just because its residents happen to be more Republican than not.

More troubling still, Schwartz’s attempt to lock-out Republican voices appears to presage a larger strategy touted by some Democrats that would gerrymander tens of thousands of Democrats into the 3rd Congressional District in an attempt to steal the seat from Scott Tipton.

Tipton, of course, whipped John Salazar fair and square last year. But if you think that will stop the Democrats from trying to pilfer the seat away from Tipton in 2012, you didn’t read the first part of this column.

Oh, and the names of the Democrats likely to challenge Tipton if they succeed at rigging the 3rd Congressional District with disproportionately more Democrats? Many analysts mention three names: John Salazar, Pueblo state Rep. Sal Pace, and none other than Aspen liberal Sen. Gayle Schwartz.

No wonder the Aspen liberal wanted to shout about it all.

Yeah those Colorado Democrats — they play by a nastier set of rules for sure.

Josh Penry is a former state senator from Grand Junction, and former minority leader of the Colorado Senate.


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