Our View: County better served by new house district
December 17, 2011
Partisan politics may have led to the recently approved redistricting maps of Colorado's house districts, but the end result is a new district that better fits Routt County interests.
The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the new maps — previously approved by a 6-5 Democratic majority in the Colorado Reapportionment Commission — in a ruling last week. One of the results is the creation of the new House District 26, which will consist of Eagle and Routt counties. Routt County has been part of H.D. 57, which includes all or portions of Moffat, Rio Blanco, Grand, Garfield and Jackson counties.
One characteristic of H.D. 57 has been that its elected representative often isn't the candidate supported by the majority of Routt County voters. Current Rep. Randy Baumgardner, a Republican from Hot Sulphur Springs in Grand County, has been elected twice for the seat despite losing both times in Routt County, and once by a significant margin. He's been victorious because of the strong conservative voter base in all of the other counties that make up H.D. 57.
That will change with the creation of H.D. 26. According to 2010 voter registration records, the new H.D. 26 will have barely more registered Republicans than Democrats — 10,899 to 10,731 — with unaffiliated voters totaling 13,356. What it means is that a strong candidate from either major party has a good chance of winning the H.D. 26 seat beginning next fall. More important than particular party affiliation, it also means the candidate chosen by a majority of Routt County voters to represent their interests in the state Legislature actually might get elected. That's a good thing.
Local Republicans who consider the new H.D. 26 a roadblock to Election Day success ought to think again. At least one centrist candidate from the GOP consistently won over a majority of Routt County voters in the past decade. That person — Al White — regularly defeated his Democratic rivals here, even in years when Democratic candidates won every other election on the ballot. The lesson to be learned by local party leaders on both sides of the aisle is that attracting candidates closer to the center of the political spectrum is a winning strategy, especially in a district that no longer is dominated by a particular party.
There's something else we really like about H.D. 26 — the similarities among the communities that make up Eagle and Routt counties. Eagle County is home to the cities and towns of Vail, Avon, Edwards, Basalt and Minturn, among others. It's a county that depends heavily on recreation-based tourism but also has longstanding agricultural ties. We can't speak to the impact of the redistricting elsewhere in the state, but we think Routt County is better served by the results. Cheers to the new H.D. 26.