Draft of Colorado House district map splits Steamboat from rest of Routt County

The first staff plan map for the Colorado House of Representatives splits Steamboat Springs from the rest of Routt County.
Courtesy graphic

Steamboat Springs and the rest of Routt County would be in separate Colorado House of Representatives districts if the commission in charge of redistricting approves the latest map that was released Monday.

This is the first of as many as three maps the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission will release, and it reflects several decisions the commission has made prioritizing various communities of interest in recent weeks.

One priority was for the commission to keep communities with ski areas together, and another was to keep rural communities together. Both passed the commission without any opposition.

These priorities can be seen in how Routt County was dealt with on the map, with Steamboat and its ski area in a district that includes Vail, Winter Park and other U.S. Interstate 70 ski areas. Similarly, the rest of Routt County is grouped with rural counties on both sides.

“We all know that Routt County is pretty unique,” said District 3 Commissioner Beth Melton, whose district is entirely within Steamboat Springs but is elected by all Routt County voters.

“When you compare us to other resort communities, we have a lot of other stuff going on. When you compare us to other agricultural and extraction economies, … we have a lot more diversity in our economy than those folks, too,” Melton, a Democrat, said.

District 26 on the staff map would include Steamboat Springs, most of Grand County, most of Eagle County and the northwestern half of Summit County. District 49 on the staff map includes the rest of Routt County, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Jackson counties and the western part of Larimer County.

For the State Senate, Routt County is in District 8 on the first staff map, which includes all or parts of 10 different counties in Northwest Colorado, stretching from Gunnison around to Larimer, as it avoids the Roaring Fork Valley. Routt County’s current Senate Rep. Bob Rankin, a Republican from Carbondale, would no longer be in the same district.

The first staff map from the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission would move current Routt County senator, Republican Bob Rankin of Carbondale, out of the district.
Courtesy graphic

Under the new maps, the Colorado General Assembly would likely remain in control of Democrats, as there are more districts that have a voting history of supporting Democratic candidates in eight statewide elections since 2016.

Based on those elections, 15 of the 35 State Senate districts favored Democrats, 10 favored Republicans, and 10 were competitive, meaning it didn’t favor either party by at least 10%. Of the competitive 10, five favor Democrats by more than 5%, three favor Republicans by that margin, and two are toss-up races with no clear favorite.

For the State House, 33 of the 65 proposed districts voted for a Democrat by more than 10%, and 22 voted for a Republican by that margin. The other 10 districts favored one party or the other by less than 10%, though Democrats received more votes in eight of those, across those elections.

Routt County’s two districts would split, with the Steamboat one favoring Democrats by about 19%, and the district with the rest of the county favoring Republicans by about 17%.

Pete Wood, chair of the Routt County Republicans, said while the newly released map does try to prioritize the county’s rural and urban interests, it also makes it so many people have different representatives where they live and where they work.

“Many people who live in South Routt and West Routt and even over in Moffat County wouldn’t be represented in the place they work, which is Steamboat,” Wood said.

Commissioners voted to ensure that the Roaring Fork Valley was viewed as a community of interest in part because of how many workers in Aspen lived in towns like Carbondale, Besalt, El Jebel and Rifle nearby, but there has not been a similar resolution for Steamboat.

Wood said he also didn’t like that House District 49 spanned the Continental Divide, connecting the western part of Larimer County with rural Routt County. He said he would advocate that Steamboat rejoin District 49 and drop the portion of Larimer County.

Catherine Carson, chair of the Routt County Democrats, said she thought the House map in particular was a good compromise that helped prioritize issues important to Routt County.

“It keeps a real strong districtwide voice for critical issues, such as affordable housing and climate action,” Carson said. “The next 10 years is going to define our housing, and we need that voice in Denver.

She also noted Routt County would have two representatives in Denver.

A staff version of the House map released earlier this summer put all of Routt County in a district that included Moffat and Rio Blanco counties and most of Garfield County. The way the district is currently laid out groups all of Routt County with Eagle County.

This is the first of as many as three staff maps. Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission members are holding more virtual public meetings Friday and Saturday before meeting again Sunday to talk about the maps. In that meeting, these commissioners will make recommendations for potential changes on the next map.

Commissioners are also allowed to propose their own maps by having staff create one with a change they specifically are seeking.

The final map could be one of the staff maps or one of these commissioner-created maps, as long as the commission approves it with a super majority of eight votes on the 12-member commission. Any approved map needs the votes of at least two of the four nonpartisan commissioners.

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