Sep 30, 2021 - Politics

Final congressional map positions GOP to win new 8th District

Final Colorado congressional districts
Data: Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios

Colorado's new 8th Congressional District is ripe for a Republican victory — and a 4–4 split in the state's U.S. House delegation.

The intrigue: Colorado is not an evenly split state in terms of partisanship, despite how the final congressional map for the next decade is drawn. Democrats are the dominant party and currently hold a 4–3 advantage in the congressional delegation.

  • President Biden won Colorado by 13.5 percentage points.
  • Both U.S. senators are Democrats.
  • Democrats hold higher ground in terms of voter registration.

What they're saying: "Colorado is overwhelmingly Democratic statewide," says Gena Ozols, a political outreach director for labor unions. "Maps that force competition between the parties despite these numbers amount to gerrymandering in favor of the GOP."

  • "In many ways Dems are being punished for the massive anti-Trump movement in Colorado," added Craig Hughes, a Democratic strategist.
Difference between the percent of votes cast for GOP  and Democratic candidates in Colorado
Data: Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission; Table: Thomas Oide/Axios

By the numbers: The average election results in the new 8th District favor Democrats by 1.3 percentage points, but it's a misleading figure that gives the GOP hope to win in 2022.

  • The three election years used to calculate the competitiveness — 2016, 2018 and 2020 — were all strong Democratic years in which opinions of Donald Trump skewed the results.
  • Trump would have won the district in 2016 had it existed. Likewise for three statewide Republican candidates in the 2018 election — the year the GOP lost all top-tier races.

Between the lines: The imbalance in the final congressional map reflects the desire of the state's Independent Redistricting Commission to create a competitive 8th District in the northern Denver suburbs.

  • The commission voted 11-1 late Tuesday to approve the map with four Republicans, four unaffiliated voters and three Democrats on board.

The big picture: The final version is not the most competitive map drawn. Across five iterations, an Axios Denver analysis found the map moved from two competitive districts to just one — and other seats became stronger toward the dominant party.

  • More competitive seats are what Frank McNulty, a GOP strategist, wanted to see. But he cautions against reading into the map. Any race, he said, "is subject to everything that's going on at the time … and the quality of the candidate that's going to run."

Whats next: The district boundaries go to the Colorado Supreme Court for final approval.

  • The court will consider legal briefs for and against the map and hear oral arguments Oct. 12.

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