Post Independent opinion: Keep Western Slope interests intact by preserving 3rd District
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The recent state legislative committee impasse on congressional redistricting in Colorado is discouraging in itself.
Even more troubling is that one of the primary questions at the center of the debate was the proposed parceling off of a large section of the 3rd Congressional District, including the most populated areas of Garfield County, and putting it in the 2nd District.
It seems a matter of common sense that the 3rd District, historically configured as a predominantly Western Slope district, should be largely preserved under redistricting, Garfield County included.
This issue now looks to be headed to the Colorado Supreme Court for resolution, if it can’t be worked out across the wide partisan divide of the full state Legislature.
It’s a sad testament to the lack of bipartisan cooperation that legislators cannot resolve such routine matters without resorting to partisan posturing and gamesmanship.
Redistricting is not about protecting the interests of one political party or the other. It’s about keeping communities of common interest and geographical regions together in a congressional district where these interests are likely to be best represented.
Population gains and losses, as determined every 10 years by the census, are the reason redistricting is necessary.
But lines shouldn’t be drawn at the cost of compromising the integrity of a whole county. And Garfield County, as a whole, tends to have more in common with counties to the west than with the mountain regions to the east, let alone the Front Range-centric 2nd District.
We believe the interests of Garfield County, in its entirety, are best represented as part of the 3rd District.
That’s not to say that certain interests and prevailing political leanings of some 3rd District communities aren’t more in line with the 2nd District. If common political or economic interests are truly the objective, we would offer that perhaps Pitkin County and Aspen might be a better match for the 2nd District as a way to meet population goals.
One of the beauties of the 3rd District as it’s currently configured is that it is arguably the most economically, socially and, yes, politically diverse of Colorado’s seven congressional districts.
Consider that over the past 60 years, the 3rd District has been as likely to elect a Democrat to its congressional seat as a Republican (four of each since 1951).
Most of Colorado’s other six congressional districts have historically been either strongly Republican or strongly Democrat.
If competitive politics and constructive debates on the issues are among the aims, that’s all the more reason to keep the 3rd District much the way it is.
Removing communities such as Glenwood Springs and Carbondale from a political mix that also includes traditionally conservative communities such as Craig, Grand Junction and Montrose would only ensure a less lively and one-sided debate of Western Slope issues.
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