Congressional map splits Parker; town objects

Council requests change to proposed electoral districts

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The Town of Parker is hoping to be made whole again after a preliminary congressional redistricting map proposed splitting the community between two members of Congress.

The town council on June 12 agreed to send a formal request to the independent commission charged with redrawing the boundaries of the state's congressional districts.

It comes as the state undergoes a once-in-a-decade redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts -- including Colorado's new 8th Congressional District. This time, the lines are being drawn by twin independent redistricting commissions established by voters.

In the first draft of the congressional map from commission staff, one portion of Parker, with an estimated 25,000 residents, would be included in the 6th District, while the other 32,000 Parker residents would be in the 7th District. 

The proposed 6th District portion of Parker loosely includes areas east of Jordan Road and Parker Road, and around Mainstreet and downtown. Most of the town that lies west of Jordan Road and south of Mainstreet is proposed to be in the 7th District.

“Parker being split in half just doesn't make sense,” Parker Mayor Jeff Toborg said. “I think they're going to see that too.”

Parker currently lies within the 4th District, now represented by Republican Ken Buck. The 6th and 7th districts are currently represented by Democrats Jason Crow and Ed Perlumutter respectively. All seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election next year.

'A stronger voice'

In the July 12 meeting where Parker Town Council approved the request, Toborg pointed out that under the proposed map, Councilmembers Anne Barrington and Cheryl Poage would be under a different representative in Congress than the rest of the council.

“I don't want to have to go talk to one Congress member while two other councilmembers go talk to another Congress member,” Toborg said. “It just dilutes the process a little bit.” 

The Colorado Constitution's Amendment Y, passed in 2018, established the new redistricting commissions, one for congressional seats and the other for legislative districts. Under the amendment, communities of interest and political subdivisions, such as counties and towns, are to be kept together in their congressional districts. Each district must also hold an equal population while also creating as politically competitive a district as possible.

“I think keeping Parker whole gives us a stronger voice,” Councilmember Anne Barrington said in the meeting. 

Toborg planned to submit the resolution in written form and also speak during an Aug. 18 public input meeting held by the two redistricting commissions in Highlands Ranch. (Details on how to submit a written public comment, submit a recommended map or speak during an input meeting are available at  redistricting.colorado.gov.) 

As part of its request, the town also recommends that the commission regain the needed population count for each congressional district by moving the 6th District boundary to include Bow Mar and part of Littleton. 

So far, the commission staff has created draft maps based on preliminary population data, but they may change as updated figures become available.

For the first time, the redistricting process is being carried out by independent commissions rather than the state legislature. The preliminary map, created by nonpartisan redistricting staff, was released in June. The map is set to be finalized by mid-October at the latest. The commission is in the process of hearing feedback from the public. 

“I think they (the commission) are being very receptive to what they're hearing,” Toborg said. “I don't feel like this is as much of an uphill fight as it may have been if it was back when the legislature was just doing it.”

The resolution passed by the council asks for the town to be included in District 7 alongside “Douglas County communities with which we have long shared a community of interest: Lone Tree, Highlands Ranch, Castle Pines North, Castle Pines and Castle Rock,” according to the resolution. 

“As leaders of the Town of Parker, the town council has a duty to do what is best for our citizens, and in this case that means requesting that the Town of Parker be kept whole,” according to the resolution.

Political implications

While the 6th District is considered a safe seat for Democrats under the preliminary map, the new boundaries of the 7th District would make it the most competitive in the state, said Dick Wadhams, a Republican political consultant and a former GOP state chairman.

The previous boundaries for the 6th District included much of Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Brighton and Aurora, and the 7th District includes northern Denver suburbs and northern Jefferson County. Under the new map, however, most of Douglas County's population and southern Jefferson County would be in the 7th District. 

“It could be won by any party,” Wadhams said. “Douglas totally changes the complexion of the 7th CD.”

An interactive map of the all proposed new districts is available by visiting redistricting.colorado.gov and then under the drop-down menu selecting “maps” then “2021 Redistricting Maps.”

The 6th District is now represented Crow, a Democrat elected in 2018. Perlmutter is the congressman for the 7th District and has been for 14 years.

With the addition of areas such as Castle Rock, Lone Tree and Castle Pines, there's a chance the seat could flip, especially if Perlmutter doesn't run for re-election, Wadhams said.

“I would doubt if Congressman Perlmutter would want Parker in its entirety in the new 7th District,” he said. “I would just speculate.” 

With the Parker area having a mostly right-leaning voter base, one possible impact of the additional 25,000 people from the area joining the 7th District would be more voters in favor of a Republican seeking office there, he said. 

“I wouldn't ascribe partisan considerations to their (the town council's) effort but this is the reality of the 6th District. It's going to lean very heavily to Democratic and the 7th CD is very much a very competitive district,” Wadhams said. “Which is a good thing by the way.”

Toborg and Councilmember Josh Rivero both said that politics weren't a factor in their decision to request the whole town be put into District 7.

“It's not because of red or blue or ideology,” Rivero said. “We are regionally the same community. We are Douglas County. And splitting up Parker would be detrimental but splitting up Douglas County would be even more so detrimental. We have a lot in common.” 

Wadhams added that Parker's request should be strongly considered by the commission.

“Keeping communities of interest intact is one of the criteria they're supposed to use,” he said. “And clearly Parker is a very identifiable community.”

Other communities

Parker isn't the only community split under the preliminary congressional map. Brighton, Commerce City and parts of Jefferson and Adams counties were also among those divided by the map.

Usually splits like this happen because of the commission's requirement to keep populations in each district equal, said Abby Leeper Gibson, a spokesperson for the commission. It can also happen because of other boundary considerations such as keeping Aurora whole, which requires splitting Arapahoe County.

The commission has received similar resolutions from several counties on the eastern plains and a few cities, such as Aurora, she said.

“The resolutions don't carry any extra weight particularly, although the commissions are supposed to consider the boundaries of political subdivisions,” she said. 

Mayor Marc Williams of Arvada spoke during a July 13 meeting advocating for Jefferson County to be kept together as well. 

The first election under the new districts will be in 2022.

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