Last month, Colorado Politics’ Evan Wyloge broke the story of Rep. Matt Soper’s redistricting presentation, in which the legislator provided local Republican party officers and activists with alternate maps and testimony intended to keep him and at least one of his Western Slope colleagues in their current districts. Wyloge’s story and subsequent reporting covered Soper’s request to his audience that they never mention that he was the one providing their talking points, as well as his frustration with the consultants running the Colorado Neighborhood Coalition, the conservative lobbying group that he said was hired by the Colorado House & Senate Republicans. CNC lobbyist Alan Philp denied that claim and Soper retracted that statement, saying he was mistaken.
The Colorado Times Recorder has obtained video of Soper’s nearly hour-long July 18 presentation. Hosted by longtime Aspen conservative activist Maurice Emmer, the virtual meeting also included Mesa County GOP Chair Kevin McCarney, Pitkin County GOP Vice Chair Frieda Wallison, and election fraud conspiracist Sherronna Bishop, who formerly served as Congresswoman Lauren Boebert’s campaign manager.
Two previously unreported sections are noteworthy, including Soper’s comments about specific commission members and his belief that the preliminary legislative map drawn by the commission’s nonpartisan staff was “gerrymandered” to favor Democrats.
Soper expressed concerns with four members of the state legislative commission: two Democrats from Steamboat and Aspen, and two recent CU Boulder graduates, one Republican and one Unaffiliated, whom he describes as “relatively new to the state.”
“What really concerns me is the two members on the legislative redistricting commission,” said Soper. “One is from Steamboat Springs, one is from Aspen; both are the two Democrats or I should say, two of the Democrats on the committee. We also have two recent graduates from CU Boulder who came out of different states. They’re relatively new to the state. One is a Republican, one is unaffiliated. This is also a bit concerning to me because they don’t necessarily know the history of the state or the geography or the culture. I’m going to emphasize geography and culture quite a bit in this presentation because the commission does not want to hear about we’ve we’ve always done it this way, so therefore we should continue to do it this way. I find that a persuasive argument that’s probably from being a lawyer in my background before I became a legislator.”
Robin Schepper of Steamboat and Blanca Uzeta O’Leary of Aspen are the first two members Soper flagged as problematic. His concerns are presumably based upon the fact that both members from CD3 are ski town Democrats. The Commission’s make-up was determined by a complex set of rules prioritizing geographic, congressional district, and partisan considerations following a lottery from a pool of self-selected applicants- i.e. people had to sign up in the first place.
Soper also raised concerns about two other members, Republican Hunter Barnett in CD6 and Samuel Greenidge, who is Unaffiliated and represents CD4. After noting that both are recent graduates of CU Boulder, he questioned the two men’s knowledge of Colorado’s “history, geography, and culture,” given that neither was born here. Greenidge’s bio indicates that he was “raised in Weld County,” where he’s lived for 22 years.
In addition to his statements about individual commission members, Soper also questioned the objectivity of the nonpartisan staff, saying that the preliminary map’s boundaries near Delta, “definitely looks like gerrymandering to take Democrats from Paonia to try to weaken the Republican strength in Delta and Mesa Counties.”
The legislative commission released its first state legislative staff map on Monday. Unlike the preliminary map, the new version keeps Soper in the 54th district, as he argued for in his Zoom presentation. According to the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby, the only significant impact for a Western Slope House Republican is that Perry Will’s new House District 57 is now heavily Democratic. During the discussion following Soper’s presentation, both McCarney and Emmer noted that it would be helpful to have talking points such as Soper was offering for his district for Rep. Perry Will as well. It’s unclear if Will ever provided them.
Soper did not respond to an email request for comment on or clarification of his statements in the presentation. This article will be updated with any response received.
Maurice Emmer: He is on vacation and he graciously agreed to to take time to do this, and he he didn’t want to spend an hour, he said it’s about half an hour to give his presentation Freida Wallison from Pitkin County is joining. Welcome, Freida.
Frieda Wallison: Hi.
Maurice Emmer: Hi welcome Freida. So we’re going to start- let Matt start his presentation because he’s on vacation. He agreed to do this while he’s on vacation. We scheduled this in part because it’s just about a week before the committees, the redistricting committees hold their hearings in- I believe it’s in Montrose and and Mesa. Mm hmm. Yeah. And and so this would give people an opportunity to digest what what we go through tonight and prepare their their their remarks. So, man, I’m going to turn it over to you. We have your screen.
Rep. Soper: Oh, thank you very much, Maurice. Thank you, everyone, for joining this evening,
Unknown Participant: trying to keep this going.
Rep. Soper: I might have everyone and I just lost everyone.
Unknown Participant: Sharing your good.
Rep. Soper: OK, can you see my redistricting-
Unknown Participant: well, OK. Mute you.
Rep. Soper: There we go. OK, so here’s the current map. Every 10 years, by law, we have to engage in redistricting. So I’m focusing tonight on the House and Senate maps. Predominantly, though, the House for the state legislature here in Colorado. One week from tomorrow, the commission will be on the Western Slope. They’ll be making stops in Montrose, Grand Junction, and Carbondale. Carbondale will be on Saturday, July 31st. I do want to highlight right away at the start, it’s really important. If you want to testify in person, you must sign up by tomorrow. You’re required to sign up one week in advance, but I’ll get to that at the end. I just want to highlight that at the very beginning.
Rep. Soper: So this is the current map. I represent House District 54. It’s the pink area in the middle of the Western Slope.
unknown participant: In progress.
So what is redistricting and how did we get here? So we passed Amendment Z, which concerns the state legislative maps. We have Amendment Y, which concerns the congressional maps. But I’m only going to talk about the state maps here. This is where you can find it in the state constitution.
Rep. Soper: Redistricting is one of those things that has been highly political all throughout history. I mean, the term gerrymandering came from Massachusetts when Eldridge Gerry, one of our founding fathers, who was a early governor of Massachusetts, tried to redo the districts in such a way to only benefit one political party. And it kind of looked like a salamander. So they called it “gerrymandering.” In 1964, the US Supreme Court held in Reynolds against Sims that the equal protection clause of the Constitution demands that legislative representation be relatively equal to from one district to another. So that’s why in 1964, there’s a significant change that occurs if you look at Colorado legislative maps. I have some historic maps, but they begin in 1980, so for the purposes of this, that’s as far back as we’re going to go. But just know that prior to 1964, every county had their own state representative and then about every two counties had a state senator here in Colorado. This changed starting in 1966. So you’ll see from ’66 to 1970 we really didn’t know what we were doing and then in 1970 we tried to tie districts still to county lines.
Rep. Soper: So from Amendment Z, we have an independent redistricting commission, there’s 12 members, even number of Rs, Ds and Us. Of course, this doesn’t really mean it’s nonpartisan, all it means is that people got onto the commission based on a lottery of factors. So you couldn’t be an elected official, former elected official, party leader. You had to apply and your name was drawn out of the hat, essentially.
Rep. Soper: What really concerns me is the two members on the legislative redistricting commission. One is from Steamboat Springs, one is from Aspen; both are the two Democrats or I should say, two of the Democrats on the committee. That to me is quite concerning. We also have two recent graduates from CU Boulder who came out of different states. They’re relatively new to the state. One is a Republican, one is unaffiliated. This is also a bit concerning to me, because they don’t necessarily know the history of the state or the geography or the culture.
Rep. Soper: I’m going to emphasize geography and culture quite a bit in this presentation because the commission does not want to hear about we’ve we’ve always done it this way, so therefore we should continue to do it this way. I find that a persuasive argument that’s probably from being a lawyer in my background before I became a legislator. So precedent is really important. What the commission wants to know is why is it that a group of people should stay together going into the future? And that’s really important to keep in mind. So they’re wanting to talk about communities of interest. They’re willing to talk about compactness, and they’re willing to talk about is this going to be a competitive seat? So those are the three things they’re really looking for.
Rep. Soper: The commission must approve the maps by September 15th, and that must be sent to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court can only review whether or not the Constitution was followed, not whether they like the map or not. Currently, the independent commission has asked for an interrogatory from the state Supreme Court asking to set aside the dates in the Constitution. I will say as a legislator, we actually tried to do this during the session and the Supreme Court slapped our hand, although I will say I voted against it. They slapped the General Assembly’s hand and said the General Assembly can’t change the dates of a constitutionally created commission. It’s an independent commission and therefore out of the hands of the legislature. I agreed 100 percent with the Supreme Court. This is probably the right move by the commission to be asking themselves. I mean, they should have never asked the legislature to ask on their behalf. They should have asked them by themselves, I do hope that we we have dates that are relatively soon because the further we kick this out, the more in jeopardy we are of any sort of a legal challenge to the maps. Because if we get closer to 2022, or at least closer to the end date of November 15th of 2021, then all of a sudden there possibly could be a lot of legal challenges, in which case our independent redistricting commission might no longer be independent.
Rep. Soper: So how does the current map compare to future maps? Well, I’m just going to give you a brief overview of history. We’re the Western Slope here. So as you can look at this map and hopefully it’s pretty clear on your screen, this is what I got from our legislative staff and this is what they did in 1982. So this is pretty low tech. They obviously did not go to great lengths to draw these maps back then. At the time, House District 54, for example, was half of Mesa County and then western Delta County. So pretty similar to the way it is today, although the current map has Grand Junction in one district and then all of Mesa County and Western Delta County and the other district, as you can see, the district that included Pitkin County, because I see we have several from Pitkin County as all of Pitkin County, all of Garfield County, Rio Blanco County. And then there was this interesting Northwestern district that included Jackson and Grand and Routt. And then if you look down at District 58, which seems to usually center around Montrose and Telluride, it seemed to go pretty close to Cortez. It looks like. And then at the time, 59 included what looks like Durango and Cortez and Pagosa Springs. And then District 60 was the San Luis Valley.
Rep. Soper: So that just kind of gives you an example of how it was from ’82 to ’91. And the people who would have been in office at this time would have been people like Tim Foster would have been in 54. Actually, I’m drawing a blank on the others, but they will come to mind. So in 1992 to 2001, this is how the maps changed. As you can see, northwestern Colorado became much more compact, very similar to how it is today. Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffett all together, and maybe Pitkin, it looks like- it’s kind of hard. This is still low-tech in the 90s, you would have thought they would have had better computer illustrations. 54 looks relatively unchanged from the previous decades. That is 55 in the same way with 58 and 59 and the San Luis Valley. So it’s it’s pretty unchanged here.
Rep. Soper: You go from 2002 to 2011. Once again, 54, and I’m starting with 54 because I’m the current incumbent for that seat, so it’s my prerogative to start there. It’s relatively unchanged from the last two decades in this decade. 55 is the same way. You see all these districts look pretty similar to the way they had been the previous decades. So then here’s the current map. This is where we start to see some major changes, you might ask yourself, well, why are these major changes? A switch in political parties is one of the reasons why. So the three decades previous to the map you’re currently viewing would have seen Republicans with a lot more influence, this map sees more of a Democrat influence. That’s why you start to see some funkier shapes, especially in District 61.
Rep. Soper: Rumor has it, the reason why Gunnison was cut out of this district was for the sole purpose of getting rid of Kathleen Curry, who had switched from being a Democrat to unaffiliated at the time. And it looked like she stood a good chance of winning. So they carved her out to get rid of her. They want to have more urban districts, so they created House District 55 to be only Grand Junction, that was to benefit Bernie Buescher, who’s a well-known Democrat from Grand Junction, although he spends most of his time in Denver these days. And in fact, he did win that district. We fought bitterly over district 59. So J. Paul Brown represented it. Then we had Representative McGlaughlin, then J. Paul Brown, then Representative McLaughlin’s wife, who –Representative McGlaughlin, he recently passed away, but Barbara, his wife, still represents 59, so it definitely was trying to-
Maurice Emmer: I’m going to correct you real quick, Matt. Bernie Buescher never served in this map. He was already kicked out in 2008.
Rep. Soper: Oh, thank you. I greatly appreciate that. Thank you very, very much, I for some reason, I have the wrong notes, so I appreciate that. So here’s the preliminary map that was released on June 29th. Hopefully all of you have seen it and this is not the first time. So we start to see some funky things that occur. And the reason why I gave you a quick history lesson was it’s important to see that on the Western Slope. –And I’m not talking about the front range or the Eastern Plains– this presentation really is for the Western Slope. It pretty much was consistent and we start to see some interesting changes with the preliminary map, the preliminary map –just so that everyone doesn’t get too paranoid or panicked, Your blood pressure worked up– was drawn by staff. So the commission has not actually weighed in on this map. And that’s the importance of public comments.
Rep. Soper: So whether you’re making a public comment through a drawn map, written comments or oral testimony at one of their field hearings, it’s really important that you emphasize the importance of keeping communities of interest together, but also understanding history, the fact that, for example, what had been 54 has always had Western Delta County, and this is there’s a reason for that. People flow between the two counties. There’s about 1,100 people every single morning who wake up in the city of Delta and they drive down to Mesa County for their employment. Likewise, there’s about 600 people in Mesa County who wake up every morning and drive down to the city of Delta, and that’s according to the Census Office. So you might be wondering between Delta and Montrose, there’s an exchange of about a thousand people total back and forth between the two counties. Culturally speaking, there’s there’s just a lot of similarity between Delta and Mesa counties. For example, almost all of the state’s commercial orchards are in these two counties, along with most of the vineyards on the western slope or in these two counties. There’s actually no commercial vineyards or orchards once you start to go south of any scale, at least not that would be commercially viable.
Rep. Soper: Let’s talk about this little nub up here. It includes Rifle, Silt and the area south of Newcastle. So I was drawn out of my house seat because I live in Delta. Perry Will, who lives south of Newcastle, was also drawn out of his seat. This is really important for everyone to understand. It’s not just about incumbents, but it’s about power on the Western Slope for Republicans in the future.
Rep. Soper: I’m going to tell you this, but I never want you to mention that you heard this coming from me because the commission really wants to focus on competitive seats. But Rifle and Silt have a whole lot more in common with places like Meeker and Craig and Maybell, then Glenwood Springs. And that’s why –one thing we’re going to be making the arguments for– at least I hope to persuade you to make the arguments for, is that Glenwood Springs should be part of this Roaring Fork Valley district. And if we can make these switches here and move Glenwood to the Roaring Fork Valley District, move the Rifle and Silt area back into 57, move this area to include western Delta County, this little switch here means that we will for sure keep northwestern Colorado a Republican seat. Without this switch. It looks very difficult on paper for a Republican to win the seat. I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m just saying it would be incredibly difficult. Even someone as likable as Perry will, although he’s been drawn out here, would would find it very difficult as well. So that’s just something to really keep in mind.
Rep. Soper: And history also plays into this. Why do people travel a certain way? I mean, there are natural cutoffs when it comes to canyons for flows of people. There’s mountain passes that certainly cut off where people are. There’s certain ideologies that reflect differently in different areas. And it’s really important to emphasize that. So here’s just a little bit more of the Delta County legislative breakup, it’s kind of odd. They, of course, I like to jokingly say I irritated someone over in Denver because for both the House and Senate maps, they cut out Delta and Orchard City and kind of the central area of Delta County, not knowing really where I live. So they were probably just saying, ‘well, let’s just get rid of Representative Soper once and for all.’.
Rep. Soper: But that’s that’s just my joking humor. Although in politics, you tend to be kind of cynical Cedaredge they throw over with Mesa County. Sorry, I don’t know why I keep switching that. I need to leave my hands off the screen. And then they throw Paonia in with Mesa County. To argue that Paonia is part of a community of interest with Mesa County, especially when it’d be almost impossible to travel your entire district on one road has a lot to be desired. So this definitely looks like gerrymandering to take Democrats from Paonia to try to weaken the Republican strength in Delta and Mesa Counties.
Rep. Soper: So let’s look at the breakdown in the Rifle- sorry and yeah, Rifle, Silt and Paonia was added and Delta was deleted. So here we have Rifle and I don’t know if you can see my mouse on your screen or not. I saw some head nods, so so we have Rifle here. Yes, then we have the area south of Newcastle. And so so this area is also, once again, kind of odd because, I mean, logically speaking, if you wanted to keep an area flowing, you would go along the interstate and keep some areas intact and compact, because one thing that the law says is that districts need to be compact. It’s not really compact when you can’t even stay on the same road to be within your district. I’m just telling you this to give you ideas of how to argue and hopefully write a short persuasive speech to send to the commission or testify in person.
Maurice Emmer: So, Matt, may I ask you a question about that?
Rep. Soper: You’ll give me a chance to think.
Maurice Emmer: Yeah, I posted in the chat a couple of documents. One is the Colorado constitutional language that spells out the factors to be taken into account by the commissions in drawing the districts. And I recommend people download those for reference in the future. The other one was just some notes I took from the Zoom we had a couple of nights ago. Kelly was on that one. I know Alan Mayes was on it and it it’s just my notes. There are other notes that others might have with some ideas about types of comments to make. But you’re you’re making some specific recommendation. Like, this is really great stuff. You know, this the thing about the highway or about the employment or whatever, if you could jot down some notes, if you don’t have them jotted down already, jot them down later and get them to me. I’m going to distribute them to everybody and be very specific ideas and examples of why maybe the preliminary map is not a good idea and what should be done. I want to get them to people because people don’t really know what comments to make. And we have people who are going to go to these. In fact, Eagle is sending 20 some odd people up to up to Steamboat, I guess, this weekend where they’re having a hearing. And so they could they could use all that stuff. So I’d like to ask you for that when you- you know, when you’re not on vacation!
Rep. Soper: Sounds good. I’ll have time on Sunday. We have a pretty big Lincoln Day Dinner. I don’t know if you heard, but Lauren and Jim Jordan are coming.
Maurice Emmer: I’ll be there. Will you be there?
Rep. Soper: I will be there.
Maurice Emmer: We’re good. I’ll see you there. Thanks. But please proceed-.
Mesa GOP Chair Kevin McCarney: It’s part of his vacation package!
Rep. Soper: It’s a what package?
Mesa GOP Chair Kevin McCarney: I said it’s part of your vacation package, Matt.
Rep. Soper: Exactly. Yes. I told my wife would finish our vacation with a short jaunt down the Palisade Plunge and having dinner with Lauren Boebert and Jim Jordan.
Rep. Soper: On this map, the title actually has a mistake and I apologize. It should say Delta, Orchard City and Hotchkiss added to the Four Corners district, not Cedaredge. So this is quite a dramatic change from how things are. As you can see, they go over and looped in Cortez to make sure they put it with Durango. This is definitely- obviously for population purposes. It’s not necessarily needed to have Cortez with Durango. I just want everyone to know that. And it’s not needed to go this far up into Delta County at all.
Rep. Soper: When talking about keeping districts compact and keeping communities of interest together. It is important to realize, for example, Delta and Montrose for a long time have the nation’s oldest football rivalry that ended when Montrose grew and entered the next size league up. There are just a lot of differences, businesses will tell you in Delta that they will almost never have Montrose customers, but they will have customers from Mesa County and some from San Miguel County. You know, I don’t know if this is a cultural divide or or what it is, but there is a feeling that there are two different groups of people, that’s for sure. This area right in here where my mouse is hovering, it’s the Grand Mesa. So Delta and Mesa County share the Grand Mesa. And that’s something that you can point out when you’re making a comment. They also share the Domínguez and Escalante canyons over here. So this was an argument that was made for keeping the 3rd CD together and the Grand Mesa and Dominguez Senesco. And they were two key arguments that were made to the commission 10 years ago and were currently being made right now to keep the 3rd CD together, basically being the Western Slope as a whole.
Rep. Soper: The reason why I make these is when you think about representation, it’s not do you love your representative or do you hate them? It’s really important to think about what would make a really good district for representation, not not not necessarily partisan-wise, although I do think about that from being a partisan actor. But I think about it in terms of, you know, representing the entire Grand Mesa absolutely makes sense because you have the watersheds that affect different municipalities. And it means that that representative, when they’re making the argument for the Grand Mesa, it’s much it’s much more emotional because it’s your backyard. If a representative lives way down here and, you know, they have part of the Grand Mesa, you have kind of this conflict of, you know, are you on the north side or the south side of the mesa? That may be getting way into the weeds, but just kind of wanted to illustrate why it’s important that some areas really should stay together when it comes to representation.
Rep. Soper: Here is the current Senate map, so all of Mesa County is together, as you can see, there’s the central Senate district. And yeah, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Here’s the preliminary Senate map. There’s absolutely no gerrymandering here! I mean, I mean, what’s this? This little bit that my mouse is hovering over is the north fork of Delta County added to Senate District Six, this is really, really weird. I mean, if someone were to tell me that the preliminary map said absolutely no gerrymandering involved, I would have taken one look at these maps and said, you’ve got to be kidding me.
Rep. Soper: In many ways, the preliminary maps are even worse than the current maps. Because why would you take this area and if you know your geography, this is essentially a national forest, no way to really go across. I mean, I suppose there’s some snowmobile routes, or four-wheeler routes, but, you want your senator to be able to somehow across the district, mostly on the same road, or at least have the option to even in summertime. Aside from the wineries, I don’t really see what the similarities are between Mesa County and the North Fork. I mean, there’s probably some other similarities that someone can make. And then likewise, it’s also not very compact. That’s that’s just one example right there.
Rep. Soper: We could go in and kind of nitpick each one of these districts quite a bit. Dylan Roberts two days ago –he’s the representative from Eagle County– he represents Eagle and Routt County, currently, He just announced he’s running running for the state Senate. So if you look at what Senate District 34, in this preliminary map. Who knows what the official numbers will be in the end, these are kind of their working numbers, which I kind of wish they had stuck to similar numbers, but they didn’t. I mean, this district definitely looks like an even stronger Democrat district than it already is, because under the current Senate map, it includes Delta, which is a Republican stronghold in Hinsdale County, which is also a Republican stronghold. They’re taken out, although Hinsdale doesn’t have a lot of voters. They they definitely strengthen this to try to put all of the major ski resorts in central Colorado together and that was kind of their scheme in doing so.
Maurice Emmer: So would that, would that be an example of violating the factor of creating competitive districts?
Rep. Soper: Yes, I would argue that. Although communities of interest outweighs competitive districts is what I’ve been told. So the ski resorts have made the argument that they’re a community of interest. And that’s actually a pretty strong argument. I mean, if you think about it, that major ski resorts like Vail and Beaver Creek and Avon and Crested Butte and Aspen and Buttermilk, all these places should should probably be represented together because they do have a similar way of thinking and culture. I mean, that’s certainly not a bad argument. Not not at all. I find that a difficult argument because, I mean, you have ski resorts all throughout this area with Telluride and of course we have Powderhorn and Steamboat Springs, so. Certainly if I was the ski industry, I’d want more senators in my back pocket than really just one. But but that’s not what the law says, so. They would look and say, well, this district looks pretty compact and the community of interests undermining this district would be –or sorry, not undermining– underlying this district would be the ski resorts and the resort mentality.
Maurice Emmer: So you would really need a very strong Republican candidate to over- Dylan Roberts is a pretty a pretty formidable candidate, I think.
Rep. Soper: I think he’s pretty tough. And under the current map, this could be winnable, although it’s kind of a Hail Mary winnable. It’s not exactly a line-of-sight winnable. This is a impossible winnable, if you’re a Republican. If you’re a Democrat, your only fear is the primary.
Sherronna Bishop: Can you go back one more? Can you go back to that one one more time?
Rep. Soper: Or this one or the one before?
Sherronna Bishop: The one before. Real quick, I just want to take a picture. I was going to do a side by side on these. Thank you. Sorry about that. Thinks.
Rep. Soper: Oh, no no.
Maurice Emmer: So have you have you addressed the the matter of the extent to which the this process has been influenced by the state GOP or people engaged by the state GOP?
Rep. Soper: Yes, I’ll talk on that, so, OK. The Colorado Republican Party, the House Republicans in the House, Senate Republicans hired Alan Philp, Greg Brophy and Frank McNulty to represent our interests. In speaking to all of them and in listening to their presentations, their only goal is to increase the numbers in the state House and, if possible, increase the numbers in the state Senate. They are not concerned about the Western Slope, and as a matter of fact, anyone who is on the call with the state party who heard I think it was either Frank or Alan say, “Delta County is divided and you need to take one for the team.” They said that to Delta County’s Republican chair, Dave Bradford. I mean, that was just a slap in the face.
Rep. Soper: And it really does show how we’re a divided Republican Party as well. That guys on the Front Range, are really only concerned about boosting our numbers, which which I’m concerned about, too. I think we ought to. But if we boost our numbers in the suburbs of Denver in such a way that we lose a seat on the Western Slope, the Democrats actually got what they wanted. They’re getting inroads on the Western Slope and the suburbs won’t last long being in Republican hands because our state is changing and unless we’re we’re able to reverse the influx of Californians into the suburbs. We only have probably two to four years to hang on to the gains we’re going to be receiving from redistricting, so–
Maurice Emmer: those gains, but the gains that they think they can get, they wouldn’t bring the party anywhere really close to controlling either chamber, would they?
Rep. Soper: Now, we would move from maybe 24 to 29 in the state house and you need 33 to control things. And would move from maybe 15 to 16 in the state Senate.
Maurice Emmer: So so so is, I mean, that’s that raises a larger question in my mind, which is what the heck is the long range plan for the GOP in Colorado? If the demographics on the Front Range are changing against the GOP? I mean, what the hell’s the point? Right? I mean, what’s the plan? I mean, who cares if you’re if you’re within two or three seats of controlling a chamber if you don’t have a plan for getting control? I mean, this this is the big question to me.
Rep. Soper: Yes. I’ll tell you the plan. So A you get as close as as practicable to that majority because, A, it means that instead of having two more Democrats in committees, you only have one and flipping one Democrat vote is possible. Flipping two is impossible. So it moves us to within striking distance. But B, it’s really important we protect rural Colorado for conservative voters because Colorado has very deep pockets of red and you see that across the entire Western Slope and Eastern Plains. And to me, it’s utterly offensive to structure some of these districts in such a way that an area that is deep red, solidly conservative, could then have Democrat representation, all because we were so focused on Jefferson County and Arapahoe County that we missed the ball. And my fear for the big picture in the future is what I just said, that. We’ll make some short term gains and then we find ourselves four years from now looking back, saying, oh, shoot, our numbers are dwindling and we even lost a seat or two on the Western Slope.
Rep. Soper: Well, yeah, well, that’s not the place I want to be in, which is why I’m giving this presentation tonight to hopefully make a switch that will save us northwestern Colorado. Yes, it will help me, but more importantly, it helps keep communities of interest that have been together for this entire time that we’ve been doing legislative districts, try to keep those those places together as long as possible because, I mean, it’s the way people naturally flow. Where they work is where they live.
Maurice Emmer: Well, well, well. Could we- so I don’t want to pursue that one. Now, that’s not the point of this presentation. And I’ll take time away from your vacation. But but just looking at your situation, would it be helpful if you provided comments? As I as I asked before, areas where you would like people to comment about the district you’d like to continue to represent?
Maurice Emmer: And then could we ask the other sitting members of the of the General Assembly to do the same thing and say, hey, give us some comments, guys. I mean, if you want to keep your districts, then give us some ammunition. We need talking points. And I know that the commissioners don’t want to see form letters coming in and they don’t want to hear the same thing over and over again. But they do hear repetitive- they want- you know, it helps to hear a lot of people saying pretty much the same kind of thing that we need that from. Don’t you agree, Kevin, that we need that from these guys?
Kevin McCarney: It would really be helpful to have something from Perry Will in particular, Matt in particular, Mark Catlin, and, -oh I’m forgetting him now- Don Coram in particular on these maps. Kristi has actually sent me some of the redraws that she’s wanted me to present, which moves Matt back into his district, moves Perry Will back in his district, leaves the commonality which should exist and it’s existed for 30 years.
Kevin McCarney: The thing for everybody to remember, I was I actually testified the last time they did this and they took a 32- or 33-32 Republican majority in the House when the election of 2010 and turned it into a 37- 29 or 37-28 Democrat majority just by redistricting people into and out of districts. It’s going to be important, important, important that we have a big turnout because over on the Eastern Slope in Aurora and places like that, there were huge Democrat turnout. So we need to put our voice in there.
Kevin McCarney: I will try to get those maps downloaded. Obviously, there’s been some stuff, other stuff that I’ve been working on that Kristi has asked me to present these maps at the hearing here on July 30th. And I’ll try and get them together where I can get out to the folks can use them as well. But what it does is returns Delta, back- Western Delta County- back to Mesa County. It takes that will bulge out at the top of Mesa County and returns it back to where it belongs. And actually, I think one of the maps takes part of Gunnison because the rest of Gunnison has nothing in common with Crested Butte. I hate to say that, but there is no commonality between Crested Butte and rest of Gunnison County. And so I actually I think the goal is to return to some county back to common seat with Montrose because there’s a lot more commonality between Montrose and Gunnison. Highway 50 runs right up from Montrose, right up to the Gunnison and then all the way east.
Kevin McCarney: So there are maps out there that are going to be presented. I’m planning on testifying and I know we’re going to get groups from a bunch of other groups to testify, but we need to be voicing- and and really we talk about talk about this a little bit. We can’t say, ‘hey, put Matt Soper back where he belongs’ and you can’t do ‘hey, put Perry Will back where he belongs,’ but which can do is a western Delta County has been traditionally teamed with Mesa County because of the commonality of agriculture and the rivers and Highway 50. That continuity needs to be preserved because it’s been there for a long time and there is a commonality because people move towards Grand Junction. And frankly, I don’t think and you don’t have Olathe on the map, but this Senate district in particular in the House district, Olathe, has much more in common with Montrose, they belong there. So if you cut that western Delta County and put it back where it belongs, you have more commonality. Paonia- we don’t have anything in common with Paonia.
Kevin McCarney: You know, I don’t understand why they’re doing this other than, you know, they’re not supposed to be able to look at who lives where. But you have a hard time convincing me that they didn’t look at the map and say, hey, we can put Mark Caitlin and Matt Soper together and make them fight it out. You know, so I plan on being there next Friday as soon as he shows us how to sign up.
Maurice Emmer: OK, so OK, Matt, so please proceed because I want to have some time for some questions.
Rep. Soper: Thank you. And I’m showing just how Delta County is divided because it’s a good example of how crazy this map is. It’s a little bit more detailed. And Kevin, I just want to say thank you so much for being there and presenting and having a map.
Kevin McCarney: I already yelled at our side so I might as well yell at everybody.
Rep. Soper: Thank you. Well, it’s been really frustrating because throughout this process, I’ve heard over and over again they don’t want to hear from incumbents. They don’t want to hear from incumbents. So people like Perry Will, myself, Mark Caitlin, all of us are relying –and even the House Republicans, really– are relying on everyone on this call to make the arguments that we can’t make. So the role has been reversed here. Normally, we’re the ones who go to the chambers of power to advocate on your behalf. All of a sudden, it’s been reversed to where we are, we can’t speak, we’ve been muted, and now it’s everyone who’s listening to this call. It’s the activists, it’s the volunteers. It’s the people. They’re the ones who have to go and advocate. For their representatives, for their communities of interest, for their part of Colorado.
Rep. Soper: So how do you do this? Public comments: so you can do written and oral testimony and then you can submit maps, like I said, you must sign up one week in advance. I will email my PowerPoint to Maurice, and maybe you could just send it out to everyone, Maurice, because you can click on the hyperlink to help you out. On July 30th. They’ll be in Montrose at 11 a.m. at the Ute Indian Museum. And then also on July 30th, they’ll be in Grand Junction at Mesa State. Ah sorry- Colorado Mesa University –old things die hard– at 7:00 p.m. And then on July 31st, they’ll be in Carbondale at 11 a.m..
Rep. Soper: So what’s the game plan? I’ve already described it a little bit, one would be asked that Delta County be made whole- that’s probably not going to happen. At least have western Delta County be put in with Mesa County. The switch that we’ve been talking about with having Glenwood be part of Aspen and the Roaring Fork and the Watts rifle and still be returned to northwestern Colorado and the western Delta County to be returned to Mesa County. This is kind of this this clockwork change that we’ve been talking about. Here are some alternative maps that different individuals have crafted for me.
Rep. Soper: Here are some alternative maps that different individuals have crafted for me. As you can see, both of them, the individuals, –they were two different people who did these– kind of came up with something similar. So they basically took kind of what we’re trying to do and gave it their own twist. You don’t need to create a map for the entire state. All we’re talking about is our part of Colorado. We’ll let the rest of the state fight for themselves. And actually, quite frankly, from the twenty thousand foot level, we as Western Slope Republicans and conservatives really should not be doing anything to touch the work they’re doing east of the Continental Divide, which which is really important. So we have all the latitude to do any advocacy to change the maps west of the Continental Divide. But we do not want to touch on the good work that they’re making in eastern Colorado.
Rep. Soper: So what does the commission look at? They look at continuity, making sure that the areas within the district are physically adjacent so they don’t want it to look like Hawaii. They want it all together. They want compactness. These are more general terms, but these are the terms in the Colorado law as well. And then they want communities of interest, and you heard me say that term probably a thousand times in this call, that really is what the commission has said over and over again, that they are really looking to the most. So it could be economic interest, it could be school districts, other special districts, geographic features. So I want you to think in really broad terms that communities of interest where you put on your creative thinking hats, I gave the example of Grand Mesa between Delta and Mesa Counties. Rivers, such as the Gunnison River. Canyons, where two areas share a canyon. It could be similarities in agricultural products that could be similarities in industries. So like the ranching industry could be part of that as well. If there’s any sort of a production, like a mining industry, all that are very similar to each other, ski resorts.
Rep. Soper: And then how to submit a comment? Here’s the hyperlink, it’s redistricting. Colorado gov, you can submit maps, make public comments on communities of interest. Do not mention party or incumbents. I cannot stress that enough. The commission will throw those out and will not even read those comments if they see an incumbent’s name or the word Republican or Democrat or unaffiliated. And that’s it. So,.
Maurice Emmer: Matt my question is, is it OK if I share that that presentation around to the people in our CD3 group?
Rep. Soper: Oh, yes. Yes, absolutely.
Maurice Emmer: If you could send me a send me a copy or give me a Dropbox link or somewhere I could download it. I would like to send it around. We only have like eleven people on the call and they’re going to be many others who are going to watch this presentation, the recording and and who will want to see that presentation and review some of the slides.
Rep. Soper: I’ll just make the one typo correction and I’ll send it off to you, OK?
Kevin McCarney: And you can put the link for registering to testify on purpose. So that’s a written comment.
Rep. Soper: This one, yep. That’s the one to sign up, you can also find this on the commission’s website as well.
Maurice Emmer: Yeah, yeah, it’s very easy to find their website, just Google Colorado Redistricting Commission and you’ll find it immediately. There are two commissions, one for Congress and one for the the state legislature.
Rep. Soper: Just a little bit more in process and then I’ll open it up to questions. I’ve had people ask, well, what’s the process from here? So the commission will take all these maps and written comments and oral testimony. Then they will tweak the preliminary map. Then they’ll put that back out to the public for more comments, then they’ll quickly receive those. The timeline will be very quick. Then they’ll produce a third map. On the third map, if they vote by super majority, the third map will be sent to the Supreme Court for adoption. If they are bickering and fighting among themselves and want to produce a fourth or fifth map. If they cannot get to a supermajority vote on the commission, then the third map automatically is submitted to the Supreme Court. So it is possible the third map could be the final map. And that’s just something to keep in mind, because I have no idea how the people work together on the commission. I haven’t studied their interactions in depth, but I do know how human nature is.
Maurice Emmer: Any questions? I can’t believe Dave Peters doesn’t have a question because he usually does.
Dave Peters: Well, I’ve got I mean, questions, obviously, and the ones that pertain to us down here and I’m down in La Plata County, Durango, I mean, it sounds like what used to be House 59 now is 52 from from what I see, what I’ve heard, it certainly becomes more competitive for us. So there isn’t really much arguments that it ought to change from the preliminary maps and just reinforce the various talking points on. ‘Yes, it looks goo.’ But I’m more curious for the Senate side, there wasn’t much discussion. And I guess that’s now District seven on on changing that. Is there a reason why?
Rep. Soper: I mean, I was mainly focused on the House side, not necessarily the Senate side, on the Senate side. I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of change. It will definitely be fine tuning on the Senate side. I mean, it could be we see a dramatic change. I mean, everything is possible. The Senate maps, unlike the House maps, have had massive changes, especially in western Colorado, probably the only Senate seat that’s been kind of consistent has been the Mesa County seat and the northwest Colorado. If you look at all the other Senate seats about every 10 years, they say some will go from, say, Delta to the San Luis Valley. Others will be directly across southwestern Colorado. They they definitely take on different forms and change dramatically.
Kevin McCarney: I’m sorry, go ahead.
Rep. Soper: I was just going to finish that and just say that on the Senate side, we’re also not as concerned about losing a Republican senator under the preliminary maps, but we are very concerned about losing a Republican House representative under the preliminary maps. And that’s something to just keep in mind while I focused on the house.
Kevin McCarney: I was just going to say to the Senate District seven, they cannot gerrymander enough Democratic votes to make it competitive. But if they can’t do it, it’s a plus 30 plus 35 district, you know, Ray Scott’s been in there for two terms, so that tells all everything and even even trying to take eastern Delta out of there and put western Delta in there. It’s just not enough votes to make a difference in Senate District seven. That’s going to be a Republican district unless we put somebody like me up as a candidate.
Dave Peters: Well, I appreciate that. Well, it’s a Republican district. It’s just. Are we represented by a Republican… Anyway.
Kevin McCarney: Well, right now we have announced candidate to replace Ray because he’s limited and Janice Rich is going to run for that seat.
Maurice Emmer: Right, right. Well, I don’t think we have have much of a risk that you’re going to run, Kevin. So we’re good.
Kevin McCarney: Yeah, my wife is sitting behind me with a loaded gun for even talking about it.
Maurice Emmer: I know how you feel about any other questions or comments? I mean, I’m happy to end this now if there are no questions or comments we had, we’ve taken a lot more of Matt’s time than we asked for. Really appreciated. Matt, appreciate your doing this. I’ll buy you a couple of drinks on Saturday night at the dinner. Make up for it, OK?
Rep. Soper: Sounds good. And I will get you the slideshow and the list of bullet points or talking points. It will probably be Sunday by the time I have the opportunity to sit down and do that just because.
Maurice Emmer: Well, that’s fine. That’s fine. And if you could just ping Perry and anybody else you think we need talking points from, just tell them quickly, ‘hey, these people are ready to step in and appear, but they really need to know what what you want to want them to say.’ Oh, Kelly Hagerty has a has a comment or question.
Kelly Hagerty: Question. Matt Soper, you came up on my phone. Is your birthday tomorrow? Is that accurate?
Rep. Soper: It’s not tomorrow. It’s July 30.
Kelly Hagerty: OK for some reason. You know, actually, my question was and this is probably maybe David know this, but to Dave’s point, when when he’s talking about our district and specific, does it help when people that are outside the district make comment to other districts? I mean, is that helpful on behalf of other districts or are we only speaking to ours?
Rep. Soper: I think I think it can be helpful. I mean, I would certainly preface it based on having a knowledge of the Western slope. And understanding where people live, where people work, what the cultures are of different communities. I mean, all that is is incredibly relevant. I mean, if you, you know, you’re kind of making yourself an expert, as it were, and you’re telling the commission, look, I understand the culture, say, of Montrose, of the culture of Glenwood and why it should be in this district and not that district. And you know this because of your background in business. You don’t even have to provide the background for why you’re making–
Maurice Emmer: Well the fact is they don’t know anything about it on the commission. So I think anything you add you know, it adds to their their knowledge. I think you definitely should do it.
Kelly Hagerty: OK.
Maurice Emmer: And any other questions or comments?
Dave Peters: I’ve got one final one, this is a little bit more towards CD three. We weren’t talking about tonight and I thought about more commonality from our our Zoom call the other night. Maybe this applies to a little bit to what we were talking about tonight. But, you know, one of them is the oil and gas industry and finding and and one thing, this is East Slope versus West Slope and there is oil and gas on both the East and West Slope. So initially, that doesn’t seem like a strong argument. But on the Western Slope, you know, we get a lot of areas, an incredible amount of our tax revenue for counties, roads and bridges, et cetera, comes from oil and gas. Whereas on the Eastern Slope, it’s a drop in the bucket. And so we definitely have a strong commonality on the Western Slope with revenue from oil and gas, and maybe that does apply in some areas, Mesa County, etc., that can be argued for the House and Senate.
Maurice Emmer: That’s a great point, Dave, because what you’re really saying is, it’s a much more material industry to the Western Slope than it is the front range.
Kevin McCarney: And they would I would I would stop with the East Slope, West Slope, I’d talk West Slope, I-25 corridor, because that’s really what we’re talking about is the I-25 corridor wants to control the rest of the state. You’ve got the eastern plains you’ve got which have oil and gas and those small communities rely on those taxes. You’ve got the I-twenty four– I-25 corridor that doesn’t care and you’ve got the Western Slope that relies on those taxes.
Maurice Emmer: So Gary, thanks. Thank you. Thank you. Very good way. And any other comments or questions? Well, thank you again, Matt. Thanks to everyone who’s participated, this has been recorded as usual, I will circulate the link to the recording so that those who couldn’t be on it live will have the benefit of it if they choose to view it. And I will circulate the the presentation slides with the one typo corrected. Again, thank you, everyone, and we’ll talk to you soon. Good night. Thank you.
Rep. Soper: Good night, we’ll talk soon.