DENVER – Republicans redrew Colorado's congressional districts (search) just two years after the once-per-decade redistricting, in a rare move that would solidify the GOP's tenuous hold on a new U.S. House seat and bolster the party's majority in Congress.
The Legislature approved the plan late Wednesday before adjourning for the year. The maps will be sent to GOP Gov. Bill Owens (search) for a promised signature.
The current map was drawn two years ago by a judge after the Republican-dominated House and Democrat-controlled Senate deadlocked. Republicans now hold majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
Reopening the process is unprecedented in Colorado politics, and some Democrats called it illegal.
"What's going on here is a battle for the United States Congress and it has clearly come from the White House," said Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald. "They're trying to use Colorado as a test base to start to take seats away that were competitive. This is a sheer power play on their part."
Republicans said they have the authority because the state Constitution says district lines are to be drawn by the Legislature. Leaving the court-ordered plan in place would amount to a shirking of duty, since the Legislature has never approved a plan, Owens said.
The new maps would shore up Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez (search), who eked out a 121-vote win to represent the new 7th Congressional District. The GOP plan would give the party a 27,000-vote lead in registration.
The GOP plan also would increase the margin of Republican voters in the 3rd District, a seat seen as vulnerable if Republican Rep. Scott McInnis (search) retires.
Texas is considering similar plans to redraw congressional districts. New Mexico, where Democrats are in control of the Legislature and the governor's office, abandoned plans to redraw the lines after drawing similar criticism.
Republicans hold a 229-205 majority in the U.S. House, with one independent.
The tactic appears to be legal but unprecedented, said Stuart Rothenberg, author of the Rothenberg Political Report in Washington, D.C.