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A scene from the city of Pueblo pictured on Dec. 12, 2018. Pueblo is home to the Colorado State Fair. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Congressional redistricting in Colorado may complicate the political ambitions of two Democrats running to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert next year. 

Under a preliminary map of the new districts released Wednesday, state Rep. Don Valdez, of La Jara, and Pueblo community activist Sol Sandoval would live in the 4th Congressional District, rather than the 3rd. 

Boebert, who lives in Garfield County, represents the 3rd Congressional District and would remain in the district under the proposed map.

It’s still early in the redistricting process and the map, based on 2019 U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, will change once the bureau releases its 2020 data. The Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission is also likely to tweak the map after they hear public comments from around the state.

Though candidates can legally run for seats outside of the district they live in, it’s a choice that gives their opponents an easy line of attack. 

Valdez said he’ll run in “whatever district I get drawn into.” 

He was unfazed by the Republican advantage in the proposed new 4th District, which is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican who would remain in the district under the new map. Buck has been in Congress since 2014 and will run for his fifth term in November. 

The 4th District leans solidly Republican, and would continue to under the proposed map, which calls for taking Pueblo and the San Luis Valley out of the 3rd District and moving them into the 4th.  

Commission staff used the results of the 2018 attorney general contest as well as voter registration figures to measure political competitiveness. In that election, the Republican candidate won in the proposed 4th District by 23 percentage points. By comparison, the Republican candidate won by 10 percentage points in the proposed 3rd Congressional District. 

“Looks like I got my work cut out for me,” Valdez said.

Sandoval, meanwhile, plans to run in whatever congressional district ends up including Pueblo.

“I’m full steam ahead and committed to this race,” she said in a written statement. “I’m running to represent my community and the incumbent does not.”

But Sandoval also criticized the proposed map.

“These early maps will not hold up to scrutiny,” she said. “These preliminary maps are racist.” 

Sandoval cited how the two Latino congressional candidates running to unseat Boebert next year would be cut out of the 3rd District under the proposal. But a map proposed by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce earlier this month also drew Pueblo into the 4th Congressional District.

She also argued that a large proportion of the state’s Latino population would be placed in Republican-leaning districts.

Nonpartisan redistricting staff said they did not have the addresses of any incumbent elected officials or candidates for elected office in drawing the map. The new 8th District was also placed in north metro Denver in order to capture the “significant Hispanic population” living in that area, according to Jeremiah Barry, a legislative attorney for the redistricting commissions. The map includes three districts with Hispanic populations over 28%, Barry said.

Even if Valdez and Sandoval do run for the 4th Congressional District seat next year, there are several other Democrats who have announced campaigns to unseat Boebert who would remain in the 3rd District under the proposed map. They include state Sen. Kerry Donovan, of Vail, and Colin Wilhem, a Glenwood Springs attorney. 

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....

Daniel Ducassi is a former Colorado Sun staff writer.