Steamboat Springs Routt County and the rest of House District 57 will be looking for a new representative in 2012 if proposed changes to state district boundaries stay the same.
The proposed redistricting of the Colorado General Assembly has moved Grand County out of House District 57. If it remains unchanged, two-term Rep. Randy Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, would be out of a job next year.
Redistricting is required after each decennial census to adjust House and Senate districts to reflect population changes. Colorado’s U.S. Congressional and Senate districts also are in the process of changing.
The state’s Reapportionment Commission adopted House District 57 and Senate District 8 maps last month.
Routt County Republican Central Committee Chairman Chuck McConnell said the local GOP is unhappy that Grand County has been moved out of the House district that would include Moffat, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties. The existing district doesn’t include as much of Garfield County. The proposal also would move Jackson County out of the district.
McConnell said not only is Baumgardner the district’s elected representative, he’s well-liked and effective.
“He’s been an incredibly good, responsive representative,” McConnell said.
Grand County would join House District 13, which includes Boulder and Jefferson counties. Because the headwaters of the Colorado River are in Grand County, McConnell is concerned that Northwest Colorado is losing a representative who understands the importance of water to agriculture and recreation in the region.
Baumgardner said the ranching community of Grand County is joining a district with Front Range communities that don’t share common interests, unlike the other counties in House District 57.
“I just feel sorry for the people on the West Slope,” he said. “Their voices may not be heard. I hope they will be. If they’re not, I fear they won’t have representation.”
Routt County Democratic Party Chairwoman Catherine Carson agreed that it’s important to keep counties with similar issues and challenges in the same district so they can work together. She also said it’s important that the redistricting process make the number of people affiliated with each party as equal as possible.
In an ideal world, it would be equal to make sure everyone had a voice, but the House district remains heavily Republican, Carson said. But she said it’s a good thing local Republicans and Democrats work together.
“A lot of our regional goals really cross party lines,” Carson said.
The proposed redistricting changes to Senate District 8, which includes Routt County, add Grand and Summit counties but lose Eagle County. Hayden Republican Jean White represents the district.
When Baumgardner’s term expires, if the proposed changes remain the same, he could vie for the Senate District 8 seat. He said it’s too early to say what he might do.
As part of the redistricting process, the state is taking public comment about the proposed House and Senate district changes. A public meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 26. A location hasn’t been set.
According to the state’s website, the Reapportionment Commission will finalize the plan and submit it Oct. 7 to the Colorado Supreme Court for review. If approved by the Supreme Court, it would be submitted Dec. 14 to the Colorado secretary of state. Candidates would finish their terms and the new districts would take effect after the 2012 election.
Baumgardner, McConnell and Carson encouraged residents to attend the public meeting.
“It’s very important for citizens to come out and share their thoughts, feelings and visions about the whole process,” Carson said.
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com