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These Colorado legislative districts are poised to be the new battlegrounds after redistricting

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This story was originally published in the Colorado Sun.

The new Colorado House and Senate maps drawn through the once-in-a-decade redistricting process would shift the state’s legislative battlegrounds.

The maps still need final approval from the Colorado Supreme Court, but if they are adopted fights for control of the General Assembly would likely no longer be mostly contained to the Denver area.

For instance, Durango and the San Luis Valley, as well as Loveland and Nederland, would be the heart of competitive districts central to deciding which party is in the Senate majority. In the House, districts in El Paso and Weld counties could be the fiercest battlegrounds.

The Colorado Sun used an analysis by nonpartisan legislative staff of the results of eight statewide races between 2016 and 2020 to determine what may be the four most competitive House districts and four most competitive Senate districts:

Battleground House districts

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Source: Colorado Independent Legislative Commission

  • House District 19, which would straddle Interstate 25 around Erie and Firestone, would have a 1.5 percentage point advantage for Republicans. The district is home to both Democratic Rep. Tracey Bernett, of Longmont, and Republican Rep. Dan Woog, of Erie.
  • House District 18 would be anchored in Manitou Springs but also include Green Mountain Falls and most of southwest Colorado Springs. Democrats would have a 0.3 percentage point advantage in the district, which is home to Democratic Rep. Marc Snyder.
  • House District 25 would be in the southwest Denver suburbs, including Ken Caryl. Republican Rep. Colin Larson lives in the district where the GOP would have a 1.8 percentage point advantage. Larson was considering running for higher office 2022, but said he has decided to seek another two-year statehouse term.
  • House District 61 would be in Centennial and Parker. Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan lives in the district, in which Democrats would have a 0.5 percentage point advantage.

Most competitive Senate Districts

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  • Senate District 6, which would include the San Luis Valley and all of southwest Colorado, including Montrose and Ouray counties, would have a 0.5 percentage point advantage for Democrats. It’s home to Republican Sen. Cleave Simpson, who isn’t up for reelection until 2024.
  • Senate District 11, which would include downtown Colorado Springs but stretches toward the city’s airport to capture its south-central core. The district, home to Democratic Sen. Pete Lee, would have a 2.4 percentage point advantage for Democrats. Lee is up for reelection next year.
  • Senate District 15, which would include Loveland and take in Estes Park and the rest of western Larimer County as well as western Boulder County, including Nederland and Ward. The district, which doesn’t favor either political party, is home to Republican Sen. Rob Woodward, who is up for reelection next year.
  • Senate District 16, which would include Columbine Valley and Centennial and is home to Democratic Sen. Chris Kolker. Kolker isn’t up for reelection until 2024, but Democrats would have just a 0.1 percentage point advantage in the district.

A few other districts to keep an eye on

Senate District 12, which would include Colorado College just north of downtown Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Cascade, Fountain and Fort Carson, would also be highly competitive. Republicans would have a 2.4 percentage point advantage in the district, which effectively makes it up for grabs.

Both GOP Sens. Dennis Hisey and Bob Gardner live in the district, though Gardner would get to keep his seat if the map is upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court because his term isn’t up until 2025. The state constitution mandates that sitting state lawmakers be allowed to serve their entire term even if their district changes during redistricting.

Hisey is up for reelection in 2022. He could move into another district and run there to stay in the legislature. State lawmakers must live in the district they represent

Given the district’s competitiveness, it’s possible a Democrat could win there. It would be wild to have two Democratic state senators from El Paso County given its historic status as a conservative stronghold. Though unaffiliated voters now outnumber Republicans in the county and former President Donald Trump saw a steep drop off in support from 2016 to 2020.

Meanwhile, four other House seats currently held by Democrats would be extremely competitive under the new maps.

They are:

  • House District 59 in southwest Colorado, which is home to Rep. Barbara McLachlan, a Durango Democrat. Democrats would have just a 2.2 percentage point advantage in the district. 
  • House District 28 in western Jefferson County. Both Democratic Reps. Kerry Tipper, of Lakewood, and Lisa Cutter, of Morrison, live in the district, would lean in their party’s favor by 2.3 percentage points The two representatives will have to decide whether to run against each other, move into a new district or not seek reelection. 
  • House District 26 in the high country, which is home to Rep. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat. Roberts is running for state Senate, leaving the district that favors Democrats by 2.7 percentage points, up for grabs.
  • House District 38 in the Littleton area, which is home to Democratic Rep. David Ortiz. Democrats would have a 2.9 percentage point advantage in the district.
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