Reporters should find out if there’s any agreement between Dems and the GOP on competitive districts, as there was in 1980

Reporters don’t have much time to pore over Nexis, like I do, and they might argue that even if they had extra time, they wouldn’t want to spend it researching stories about redistricting, which seems to end the same way every ten years anyway.

But I found an old news article about redistricting that reporters would benefit from knowing about.

Rocky Mountain News reporter Michele Ames interviewed Colorado GOP Chair Bo Callaway and Democratic Governor Dick Lamm about the redistricting process of 1980, during which they occupied parallel universes and otherwise didn’t concur, like we’re seeing of the partisans today.

But Ames discovered that, twenty years after their legislative battle, the two were willing to admit they secretly agreed on redistricting, even though the Colorado legislature deadlocked on the redistricting matter and it was sent to court.

Lamm told the Rocky (Dec. 29, 2000):

“Bo approached me during this battle and he said, ‘Let’s divide up this state in as close and as even districts and make all the candidates earn their elected office,” Lamm said. “He was right and I admire him for it.”

 Callaway was also quoted:

 “The best thing for the state of Colorado is more competition,” Callaway said. “Make them really run. Make them win your vote. I believed it then, and I still do.”

This became known as Callamandering, and the Rocky supported it in an editorial about 10 years later, saying competitive districts “give life to the proper spirit of politics” (Rocky, May 28, 2001).

And here’s another interesting piece of the article.

In 2000, then House Speaker Carl Bev Bledsoe (R-Hugo) openly supported the concept of competitive districts. He told the Rocky:

“If you’re interested in good government, you’re interested in competition. It makes both parties stronger,” Bledsoe said. “Then, whoever wins, it holds their feet to the fire.”

Despite this nod toward good government, the Colorado Legislature couldn’t agree in the year 2000, and the congressional map was again drawn by the courts.

But it did make me wonder, this time around, are Colorado Republicans saying they don’t want competitive districts? I realize, of course, that competitiveness is in the eyes of the beholder, and it obviously can be used as a smokescreen for partisan manipulation, but still, it’s hard to disagree with Callaway, Lamm, and Bledsoe above.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but The Denver Post has yet to report, in its print edition, what the GOP thinks about competitive districts. Numerous Democrats are on record as supporting it. (The search function on the Spot blog is down, but I couldn’t find anything there.)

Clearly, The Post, should find out what GOP lawmakers think and let readers know.

We’ve seen some comments about competiveness from GOP lawmakers in other news outlets, and they are not consistent.

In December, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp told the Colorado Statesman, “Citizens want a fair and open process with competitive districts.” The Coloradoan reported that Rep. Amy Stephens favors competitive districts as well.

The Colorado Senate website, run by Democrats, quoted Sen. Mark Sheffel (R-Parker) as saying  at an April 20 hearing, “I wanted to raise the point that if we’re talking about this competitiveness that I would urge caution.”

Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) was quoted from the same hearing:

“I think we already have a competitive state and I worry that on the other side of that competitive coin, that it just breeds more polarization among the electorate.”

But fellow Republicans reportedly disagree with that:

“It’s the lack of competitive districts that have led to the polarization of politics,” said Sen. Steve Ward, R-Littleton, told the Associated Press (April 24, 2008).  He was running to replace Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo at the time.

Denver journalists would be doing democracy a favor if they would do some reporting and find out if there’s any agreement, somewhere, some way, between Colorado Dems and Republicans on the competitiveness issue. The first task is to get the thoughts of both sides on the table.

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