At least one Republican on the state commission to redraw Colorado’s legislative districts believes Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak has political motivations in supporting a proposal to place approximately 20,000 Adams County residents in Jefferson County.
Republican Reapportionment Commissioner Mario Nicolais was direct in accusing Hudak, D-Westminster, of only supporting the Democratic-backed map for Senate District 19 because it would benefit her politically as an incumbent.
“The way the map was drawn to bring in Adams County gives her a much better shot of being re-elected,” Nicolais told The Colorado Statesman following a reapportionment public hearing in Lakewood on Tuesday night. “I think it’s a purely political and cynical view from the senator and I wish she would listen to her constituents who would clearly like a Jefferson County voice. But she would rather deny it.”
Dozens of citizens lined up to speak at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood on Aug. 9. The majority of the witnesses — mostly Hudak’s constituents — raised concerns over the preliminary plan for SD 19, noting that the values and culture of Adams County residents do not align with those of Jefferson County residents. SD 19 was the focus of the meeting, with few speaking up about plans for how House district lines are drawn in Jefferson County.
Many witnesses argued that Jefferson County would lose representation in the Senate by bringing in Adams County. Most who testified on Tuesday night spoke in opposition to the Democratic-backed preliminary map, and instead argued in favor of keeping counties whole. Under the new data supplied by the Census, Jefferson County would be allotted 3.7 senators, and residents want three of them to have districts totally within the county boundaries.
“My right to vote and to be fairly represented is very important to me… regard for our constitution is also very important to me… that’s why when I saw the Senate map that is proposed I had grave concerns,” said Jefferson County resident Linda Mackety. “Our state constitution requires the commission to consider county first when drawing the boundaries… I don’t believe this has been given consideration.”
Voters critical of the preliminary map had the backing of Rep. Robert Ramirez, R-Broomfield, who represents House District 29, including much of Hudak’s district. Ramirez believes there is no connection between communities in Adams County and those in Jefferson County.
“They’re completely different communities…” said Ramirez. “By moving it over to Adams County… you take away representation from Jefferson County. I would implore you to put that back into Jefferson County.”
The Reapportionment Commission narrowly adopted the preliminary map last month on a vote of 6-5, with unaffiliated Chairman Mario Carrera joining Democrats in supporting the Senate map for Jefferson and Adams counties.
Democrats argue that if the border were moved back to the Jefferson County line, SD 19 would be short by approximately 20,000 people. The deficit would have to be made up from someplace else, such as SD 35, currently represented by Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver. But that would make SD 35 short by the same amount. Democrats argue that their hands are tied.
Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, a member of the Reapportionment Commission, asked voters if their motivation is simply a selfish one to keep Jefferson County intact.
“If the answer is I live in Jefferson County, so I don’t want it to happen in Jefferson County, that is a perfectly appropriate answer,” said Carroll. “But as a choice between whether to have a county split in Jefferson County here, or an additional county split in Denver… do you have an opinion of what would be better or worse?”
Most attendees at the meeting did not have an answer to that question, and no one testified as to where the 20,000 people would come from if the commission were not to adopt the current preliminary plan. In fact, Reapportionment Commission staffers are advising the commission that moving the border of SD 19 to the Jefferson County line would require redrawing many districts across the state, something the Reapportionment Commission is not likely to do.
Hudak believes her constituents are wrong in assuming that they would lose a voice by putting Adams County into SD 19. Hudak told The Statesman that she believes conservative operatives testified at the meeting Tuesday night, but that the majority of her constituents agree with her that the preliminary map is a productive one for the district.
“They are wrong,” she said of her critics. “They’re not reflective of the percentages of people from my district. These are the activists who came to speak today. Many of them just don’t know the district as well as I do.
“They’re talking about their own self interests,” continued Hudak. “They want to be represented by a Republican, and I’m sure it’s very painful for them to have had a Democrat represent them for the last 11 years, and the likelihood of it continuing.”
Hudak does not deny that the new map would favor Democrats in SD 19, but she says the district has been historically Democratic anyway. She also points out that the new map would combine portions of Westminster and Arvada, making it more contiguous.
“It’s putting together established communities that have been around,” Hudak said during testimony before the Reapportionment Commission.
She believes her points trump those of her constituents who don’t like the preliminary map.
“All of what I said has a lot more validity than most of what they said,” Hudak told The Statesman. “I’ve lived in the area for a really, really long time, I’ve walked the blocks in many different parts of Arvada and Westminster… I know how it is on the ground.”
But constituent after constituent lined up on Tuesday night to disagree with their senator. The argument almost always came down to community values.
“There’s two different kinds of communities, there’s communities of interest and communities of place,” said Jefferson County resident Lyle Laverty. “It’s the values that I think are the essence of many of the conversations that are taking place here tonight.”