New lines, new ratings for House races in Colorado

Competitive new 8th District could help decide majority in 2022

The new congressional map in Colorado gives Rep. Lauren Boebert a safer seat, Gonzales writes.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The new congressional map in Colorado gives Rep. Lauren Boebert a safer seat, Gonzales writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 5, 2021 at 7:30am

ANALYSIS — Colorado is under the redistricting microscope. Since the state’s voters passed Amendment Y in 2018, assigning map-making authority to an independent commission, partisan strategists and activists around the country have been watching to see if the Centennial State will be the new model for redistricting. 

Currently, Colorado sends four Democrats and three Republicans to the House. Under its new congressional map, pending approval by the state Supreme Court, Democrats will have a significant advantage in four seats, Republicans a big edge in three seats, and a new seat (gained through apportionment due to population growth over the last decade) will be very competitive. 

That means Democrats are going to have to work to gain even a single seat in a state that has been trending their way over the last three election cycles. Now that the new map has been all-but-finalized, Inside Elections is unveiling its initial House ratings for Colorado.

Colorado’s 1st (Diana DeGette, D)

The Denver-area seat continues to be a Democratic stronghold. Joe Biden would have carried the seat by 61 points in 2020, according to Inside Elections’ analysis by Bradley Wascher. Democrats also have a 74 percent to 23 percent advantage here, according to Inside Elections’ Baseline metric, which captures each party’s political performance in a congressional district by combining all federal and state election results over the past four election cycles into a single average. DeGette doesn’t have much to worry about. Initial rating: Solid Democratic.

Colorado’s 2nd (Joe Neguse, D)

Anchored by Fort Collins and Boulder, the newly drawn seat got better for Neguse. Biden carried the district by 30 points last fall under its current lines but would have won the new 2nd by 40 points, and Democrats have a 62 percent to 34 percent Baseline advantage. Winning reelection isn’t likely to be an impediment for the 37-year-old impeachment manager, who is viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. Initial rating: Solid Democratic.

Colorado’s 3rd (Lauren Boebert, R)

Democratic chances of defeating the polarizing Boebert nearly vanish under the new map and what’s likely to be a GOP-leaning political environment next year. The new 3rd District continues to include the Western Slope and ranges over to Pueblo, which is south of Colorado Springs. Donald Trump would have carried the new seat by 8 points last fall, and Republicans have a 53 percent to 43 percent Baseline advantage. Boebert, who upset GOP incumbent Scott Tipton in a 2020 primary, has already drawn multiple Democratic challengers. But they’ll have a tough time unless a dramatic backlash against Republican candidates develops. Initial rating: Likely Republican.

Colorado’s 4th (Ken Buck, R)

Republicans shouldn’t have any trouble holding on to this eastern Colorado district. Trump would have defeated Biden by 18 points in the new 4th District, where Republicans have a 62 percent to 34 percent Baseline advantage. Buck’s only vulnerability would be in a GOP primary. Initial rating: Solid Republican. 

Colorado’s 5th (Doug Lamborn, R)

The Colorado Springs-anchored district remains a GOP stronghold, and is now entirely located within El Paso County. Trump would have carried it by 10 points in 2020, and Republicans have a 59 percent to 40 percent advantage here, according to Inside Elections’ Baseline. Lamborn has faced competitive primary challenges in three of the last four cycles, and that would be his chief vulnerability moving forward. Initial rating: Solid Republican.

Colorado’s 6th (Jason Crow, D)

While Republican Mike Coffman represented the area in the not-too-distant past, this Aurora-anchored seat is now Democratic territory. Under the new lines, district voters would have backed Biden over Trump by 24 points, and Democrats have a 53 percent to 43 percent Baseline advantage. Crow, who was also an impeachment manager and gained some national attention for helping colleagues during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, shouldn’t have any problems winning reelection. Initial rating: Solid Democratic.

Colorado’s 7th (Ed Perlmutter, D)

Twenty years ago, the 7th District was a brand-new, ultracompetitive seat. Now, it has a considerable Democratic lean, enveloping parts of suburban Denver and stretching to more rural areas southwest of the city. Democrats have a narrow 49 percent to 46 percent Baseline advantage, but Biden would have carried the new district by 14 points last fall, while voters here would have backed Democrat John Hickenlooper over GOP Sen. Cory Gardner by 10 points. If Republicans are having a great election cycle, this seat could come into play. Initial rating: Likely Democratic

Colorado’s 8th (Open; new)

Situated in the suburbs north of Denver, the new 8th District will be among the seats that decide the majority in the House. It doesn’t have an incumbent and is politically competitive. Biden would have won it by 4 points in 2020, but Trump would have won it by 2 points in 2016. Republicans have a narrow 48 percent to 47 percent Baseline advantage. Across the 10 statewide elections that have taken place in Colorado since 2016, the final margin for either party in the 8th would never have been larger than 5 points. Now that the map is complete, the field of candidates will start to take shape in a seat that is nearly 40 percent Hispanic. Initial rating: Toss-up.

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call.