11 November 2011

New Colorado Congressional District Map Puts 6th CD In Play

Yesterday, Denver District Judge Robert Hyatt adopted one of the Congressional District maps proposed by Democrats, a job that fell to him because the Colorado General Assembly, which is split between the State House, controlled by Republicans by a 1 vote margin, and the State Senate, controlled by Democrats, couldn't reach agreement on a map to reflect the 2010 census in the 2011 legislative session.  There can be, and very likely will be, an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court which will make its final decision by December 15, 2011, but I would be quite surprised if the decision was overturned on appeal.

None of Colorado's Congressional Districts will be open races in 2012.  All have incumbents who are reasonably secure in the districts as currently drawn, so all of the fireworks will come from the changes in the political calculus that redistricting produces.

The big changes, politically, are to the 4th and 6th Congressional District. 

The 4th Congressional District, which includes almost all of the rural and exurban Front Range in its new configuration goes from being a moderately competitive Republican leaning district to a safe Republican district, because it sheds liberal leaning Fort Collins, while picking up the exurban Republican strongholds of most of Douglas County including Castle Rock and Elbert County.  Republican Cory Gardner is the incumbent in the 4th Congressional District and his re-election for the next ten years is almost insured by this map, barring scandal or ill health.  This effectively sinks Colorado Senate President Brandon Shaffer's chance at winning back this seat in 2012, a challenge that had already loomed large because Cory Gardner is not the utter buffoon who was the last Republican to hold that seat (Marilyn Musgrave).

The 6th Congressional District, in which Republican Mike Coffman is the incumbent, is the biggest shift.  It cedes exurban and rural territory in Southern Jefferson County, Douglas County, Elbert County and Eastern Arapahoe County, mostly Republican strongholds, while picking up first ring suburbs in Aurora and Adams County that are quite evenly balanced between Republicans, Democrats and independents.  The 6th Congressional District has gone from being one of the safest Republican congressional districts in the state to being arguably the most competitive congressional district in the state.

Mike Coffman will be facing the fight of his political life in 2012 against Democratic challenger Joe Miklosi, a product of grass roots Democratic party politics with a gift for fundraising and man of the people demeanor.  Coffman will be a formidable contender, however.  Coffman has a fat war chest, the benefits of incumbency, has held statewide office as Colorado Secretary of State, has served in Iraq, and has taken political positions in Congress that while within the mainstream of Republican politics aren't nearly as far to the right as he could have chosen to be in the uberconservative old 6th Congressional District.  Still, discontent with the obstructionism of House Republicans like their brinkmanship over the debt ceiling this summer that cost the United States its perfect credit rating makes him vulnerable in a highly competitive district like the new 6th Congressional District.

Miklosi is the underdog in this race, but I would give him 3:2 odds in the newly drawn district.

The 6th Congressional District race should attract national attention because it is swing districts like these that determine which party controls the House of Representives in 2012.  With the percentage of people who favor replacing their own Congressman at a near record high in the history of modern polling, Miklosi may be riding a wave of political sentiment.   But, he will also be riding President Obama's coat tails, for better or worse.  As it stands, the President narrowly leads all Republican primary candidates in the polls, but only by the narrowest of margins.

The rest of the adjustment in the map are basically politically neutral, and hence unlikely to produce upset results in 2012.

The boundaries of Congressional District 1 (Democrat Diana DeGette: Denver), Congressional District 3 (Republican Scott Tipton: Western Slope, San Luis Valley and Pueblo), and Congressional District 5 (Republican Doug Lamborn: Colorado Springs and vicinity) are virtually unchanged.  District 1 remains a safe Democratic district, District 5 remains a safe Republican district, and District 3 remains a moderately competitive Republican leaning district with a Republican incumbent.

The only race among these three in which there is a chance that the incumbent will be upset is Democrat Sal Pace's challenge to Scott Tipton.  But, I would be surprised if he pulled it out given the largely unchanged Congressional District.  Scott Tipton isn't a particularly strong candidate, but he is a long time Western Slope politician not so deeply identified with the Tea Party that he is likely to be booted in a backlash vote by Western Slope voters.  I put Sal Pace's chances of victory at one in three or four, perhaps 5-2 odds.

DeGette and Lamborn don't face any credible competition.

Congressional District 2 (Democrat Jared Polis: Boulder) adds Fort Collins and Southern Jefferson County, while losing Western Eagle County, which makes the district slightly more competitive but still a fairly safe Democratic congressional District. 

Polis doesn't face any credible competition.

Congressional District 7 (Democrat Ed Perlmutter: North Suburban Denver) loses thinly populated Eastern Adams County, Aurora and some of the suburbs between Aurora and Northwest Suburban Denver.  This cedes a lot of geographic territory but is close to politically neutral.  The district is a moderately competitive Democratic leaning district with a Democratic incumbent.

If there were any year for Republicans to make a shot at reclaiming the 7th Congressional District, 2012 would have been it, but they have yet to field a credible challenger to him with the election less than a year away.

1 comment:

Dave Barnes said...

Excellent analysis.