On Wednesday, Colorado's independent redistricting commission released the nation's first draft of a new congressional map for the 2022 cycle. The preliminary plan is subject to revision upon public feedback and final census data to be released this fall. But contrary to initial reports of a GOP-friendly draft, a closer look reveals Democrats would be favored to expand their lead in the state's House seats from 4-3 to 5-3.
The plan would place the state's new 8th CD in the northern Denver suburbs, and it would have voted for President Biden by 15 points in 2020. It would also shift Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter's 7th CD south into fast-growing and traditionally Republican Douglas County, reducing Biden's margin in that seat from 23 points to nine points. In 2016, it would have voted for Donald Trump by one point.
However, as we wrote back in February, given that Colorado is one of only a handful of states with competitiveness spelled out in its map-drawing criteria, it was always likely at least one new competitive (Trump 2016/Biden 2020) seat would be created.
On Wednesday, the commission released data showing Perlmutter's revamped 7th CD would have voted for the 2018 GOP candidate for state attorney general by three points and would have a four-point GOP voter registration edge, sparking Democratic fears of a 4-4 map in a blue state. Several Colorado Democrats complained to Politico that it would be a boon to GOP chances of taking back the House.
The 7th CD could be competitive in a bad midterm for Democrats. Still, it's possible Colorado Democrats are now downplaying their advantage in the proposed 7th CD to cajole the "refs" — the commission — to make it even better for them.
The commission didn't release 2020 presidential data, which tends to be a stronger indicator of congressional performance and shows that Biden would have won the proposed new 7th CD by nine points. To put that margin in perspective, there are 26 congressional districts around the country that voted for Biden by between six and 12 points, and Democrats hold 21 of them (81 percent).
Perlmutter lives in Arvada, which would land almost right on the line between the proposed 7th and 8th CDs, and would need to choose where to run. He'd be the favorite in either, considering he's run tough campaigns in the past and won reelection by 21 points last fall.
On the negative side for Democrats, the proposal wouldn't do anything to hurt their arch-nemesis, GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert (CO-03). Her western slope 3rd CD would pick up liberal Vail and Breckenridge, but it would lose swingy Pueblo and gain conservative Cañon City, boosting Trump's 2020 margin from six to seven points overall. And it would protect the state's two other GOP incumbents in the 4th and 5th CDs.
If Democrats had free rein to gerrymander Colorado, they might be able to draw themselves a 7-1 advantage. But a 5-3 split is about as strong a result as they could hope for from a bipartisan commission, and this draft is a first step.