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A map of Colorado's congressional districts.

Population gains over the past decade mean Colorado will get an eighth congressional seat for the 2022 election, officially opening a political mosh pit of potential candidates who are looking to run for the job. 

The U.S Census Bureau released state population figures on Monday that solidified the new seat, which has been long anticipated. 

Colorado’s population jumped to 5,773,714, last year from 5,029,196 in 2010, a 14.8% increase. The nation’s population grew by 7.4% during that span to more than 330 million. America’s growth rate was its slowest since the 1930s.

Colorado is among six states that are gaining one or more congressional seats. Seven states will lose seats, including New York, which was 89 people away from keeping the seat.

Where Colorado’s new congressional seat, which was expected, will be remains unclear. An independent commission is taking input across Colorado as it works to draw the state’s new congressional boundaries, but detailed data required to come up with the new lines won’t be available until late September. 

It could take until around the end of the year for Colorado’s new congressional map to be finalized as part of a once-in-a-decade process. 

A number of big-name politicians — including Republicans George Brauchler, Colin Larson, Patrick Neville and Jerry Sonnenberg, as well as Democrat Jeff Bridges — are anxiously awaiting word on where the new district will be so they can decide whether they will run for the seat. Politicians don’t have to live in the Colorado congressional district they represent as long as they live in Colorado, though there may be consequences at the ballot box from voters who reject carpetbaggers. 

Right now, Colorado’s seven congressional districts are represented by four Democrats and three Republicans. 

Three powerful political organizations representing Colorado’s rural and Western Slope counties are asking that their parts of the state be kept together as new congressional districts are redrawn ahead of the 2022 election.

Pro 15, Action 22 and Club 20 would like to see three congressional districts that encapsulate northeast Colorado, southern Colorado and the Western Slope so those areas of the state can be best represented in Washington, D.C. They argued in a call with reporters on Tuesday that lumping large metropolitan areas, like Colorado Springs, Denver and Boulder, with far-off rural parts of the state is inappropriate.

“These areas outside the urban corridor are a clear community of interest,” said Cathy Shull, who leads Pro 15, which advocates for issues affecting northeastern Colorado. “From agriculture to energy to tourism, we make our money off the land and natural resources.”

Christian Reece, executive director of the Western Slope group Club 20, would like to see Grand County, Summit County and the rest of Eagle County folded into what’s now the 3rd Congressional District. Pueblo would be cut out and added to a southern Colorado district that also included the San Luis Valley under her plan.

“Western Colorado issues and culture are very different from those in the metropolitan areas of our state,” Reece said. “Club 20 will vigorously oppose any effort to divide the Western Slope into different congressional districts.”

In reality, the commission will have to draw some metropolitan parts of the state in with the Western Slope and rural regions because those areas don’t have enough population to sustain districts on their own. (Check out this story showing which existing congressional districts have gained the most population over the past decade.)

But Club 22, which advocates for southern Colorado issues, thinks there are ways to form the congressional districts thoughtfully, including by grouping the San Luis Valley, Pueblo and southeastern Colorado together since they are already so interconnected.

Another group, meanwhile, is pushing for the new congressional district to be based on the Front Range.

“All On The Line strongly believes that Colorado’s new congressional district should be located in the Front Range Urban Corridor,” Marco Dorado, Colorado’s All On The Line state director, said in a written statement. “Due to Colorado’s rapidly growing population, a new district in the Front Range Urban Corridor would provide fair representation to the state’s various communities of interest.”

Colorado last gained a new congressional seat following the 2000 Census.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....