The independent commission charged with redrawing Colorado’s congressional map released its latest draft last week and one of the most eye-popping elements of the proposal is how it draws two disparate incumbents into the same 2nd District: Republican firebrand Lauren Boebert and liberal Democrat Joe Neguse.
The proposed district would include all or parts of liberal-leaning Boulder, Broomfield and Larimer counties, including the cities of Boulder and Loveland, and reach across the Continental Divide into northwest Colorado to take in Rio Blanco, Moffat and Garfield counties along the Utah border.
If Boebert, an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, and Neguse, who was on the team that prosecuted the first impeachment case against Trump, were to run against each other in the proposed 2nd Congressional District, Neguse would have a significant advantage based on a number of factors.
Members of Congress, however, don’t have to live in the district they represent, giving Boebert a potential out as she could run in another district to the south.
Voter registration, recent results overwhelmingly favor Democrats
If the election were held today, the Democratic congressional candidate in the proposed 2nd District would likely win by 22 percentage points, according to an analysis completed by nonpartisan staff. The analysis for the redistricting commission was based on an average of the results from eight statewide races in the district from 2016 to 2020.
Additionally, Democrats have a voter registration edge in the proposed 2nd District, making up 32% of the district’s voters compared with 22% for Republicans. Unaffiliated voters would make up the largest voting bloc at 44%.
Unaffiliated voters make up the largest percentage of registered voters in Boebert’s current 3rd Congressional District and clearly lean conservative, but Republicans hold an advantage over Democrats. Unaffiliated voters in Boulder and Larimer counties, which would be in the proposed 2nd District, also tend to lean more liberal.
“Any district that has Boulder in it is going to be very hard for any Republican to win,” said Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
The red counties in the proposed district have small populations
A few solidly Republican counties from Boebert’s existing 3rd District would carry over into the proposed 2nd District, including Moffat, Rio Blanco and Jackson. The three voted overwhelmingly for Boebert in 2020.
But here’s the catch: Just 11,500 people in those three counties voted in the 3rd District contest last year.
In Boulder County, where Neguse won by about 60 percentage points in 2020, about 260,000 votes were cast in last year’s congressional contest. In Larimer County, where Neguse won by 22 percentage points last year, 217,000 votes were cast, though the proposed 2nd District wouldn’t include Fort Collins.
Grand County, which is also in the proposed 2nd District, favored Neguse’s Republican challenger in 2020 by a small margin. But Routt and Garfield counties, which would be in the proposed district and are in Boebert’s existing 3rd District, favored the Democratic candidate in 2020.
Without a GOP county with a large population in her district, it will be difficult — if not impossible — for Boebert to counteract the Democratic strongholds of Broomfield and Boulder County.
What matters to voters in Boulder isn’t what matters to voters in Craig
In order to ensure that Colorado’s eight congressional districts have equal population — about 720,000 each — the redistricting commissions have had to to group together some dissimilar communities. There’s no exception in the proposed 2nd District, which includes polar opposite cities like Rangely and Boulder.
In northwest Colorado, the top-of-mind issues are the fossil fuel based energy economy and outdoor recreation, while the Front Range is debating affordable housing and the effects of pollution and emissions from fossil fuels on air quality and climate change.
“Our worldviews couldn’t be more different,” Neguse said of Boebert during an appearance this week on MSNBC.
Kristi Burton Brown, chair of the Colorado GOP, said the proposed congressional map “prioritizes the interests of the Denver metro (other than Republican Douglas County) and targets the voices of rural Coloradans.”
“The commission also chose to split up the Western Slope, despite the voices of the people who live there,” she said.
On Twitter, Boebert accused the redistricting commission and Democrats of drawing her into a Boulder district to try to dislodge her from Congress. She joked that she would be drawn into a district that includes the liberal bastion of Berkeley, California, next.
“Don’t worry rural Colorado,” she wrote, “I got your back!”
It’s important to note that the congressional redistricting commission is barred from taking incumbents into account when drawing the new map.
Boebert does have a pretty good option to avoid the proposed 2nd District
As we mentioned above, Boebert doesn’t have to run in the district she lives in. Her home near Silt is a few miles away from the proposed 3rd District, which looks far more favorable to a Republican candidate.
The proposed 3rd District includes the Republican stronghold Mesa County and sweeps into southwest Colorado and on to Pueblo, Crowley, Otero and Las Animas counties. Many of the counties in the proposed district backed Boebert or another Republican congressional candidate in 2020. Boebert overwhelmingly won in Mesa County and lost by a narrow margin in Pueblo County last year.
The proposed 3rd District’s voter registration includes 31% Republicans, 27% Democrats and 41% unaffiliated voters.
(On Wednesday night, Boebert tweeted that she will run in the 3rd District “regardless of redistricting.”)
Based on an average of the results of eight statewide contests from 2016 to 2020, it favors Republicans by 6 percentage points.
“It’s still Republican leaning,” said Coleman with the University of Virginia. “It’s a bit more Democratic than the past version, but it wouldn’t be unwinnable (for Boebert).”
A politician running to represent a congressional district they don’t live in isn’t unheard of in Colorado.
After Colorado received a seventh congressional district in 2001, Colorado GOP Chairman Bob Beauprez announced he was running for the Jefferson County-centered district even though he lived in Boulder County. He ultimately moved to Arvada and defeated former Senate Minority Leader Mike Feeley, a Democrat, by only 122 votes in 2002. Beauprez served two terms in Congress before moving back to Lafayette, where he grew up.
More recently, Democrat Jason Crow and his family moved from the Denver side of the Central Park neighborhood to the Aurora side after announcing his 2018 bid in the 6th District, which is centered in Aurora. Crow defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman.
Colorado Sun correspondent Sandra Fish contributed to this report.