DENVER Republicans and Democrats argued for four hours about their plans for new congressional districts Wednesday night, but they got no closer to drawing an actual map.
After seven hours of intense meetings in the last two days, their positions are clear: Democrats want to draw politically competitive districts, and Republicans want to draw a map that looks much like the current one.
As Wednesdays meeting ended, it was unclear how the bipartisan panel of 10 legislators could resolve their differences.
Were back to where weve started, and were bumping into the same exact issue. It feels like a card game where we keep playing our opening card, said Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker.
At one point, the co-chairmen of the panel Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, and Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial were fighting over the gavel, with Heath attempting to take it and Balmer snatching it back.
The meeting almost blew up twice. Republicans wanted to call for public testimony from people they had invited to the hearing, but Democrats objected because they had told their allies that public testimony would not be allowed.
Democrats insisted on quizzing Republicans about the maps the GOP revealed last week. Republicans got a chance Tuesday to ask sharp questions of Democrats about their map that splits the Western Slope, and Democrats wouldnt budge until they got the same chance.
Most Democratic criticisms of the GOP maps centered on the Denver suburbs. While the geographic changes appear small on the Republican maps, they would move densely packed blocs of Democratic voters.
Heath and other Democrats asked Republicans about their maps no less than 20 times during the past two meetings without getting answers.
It feels like youre hiding something, said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver. I still dont know what the intent of splitting Aurora three ways is. All I can surmise is ... youre engaging in some sort of nefarious conduct, or you simply dont know the answer.
Balmer and Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, finally relented, and Balmer spent the last hour of Thursdays hearing explaining the GOP maps.
Republicans, meanwhile, held their ground on not splitting the Western Slope in half, as Democrats proposed.
Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said the Democratic map puts too much of the 3rd Congressional District close to Denver.
We want to be heard, and we want to be heard by someone who lives with us and is not from metro Denver, Coram said.
Despite the partisan sniping, there were glimmers of a possible compromise. Brophy offered to draw a new map of the Denver suburbs if Democrats would agree to keep the Western Slope and Eastern Plains mostly in their current districts.
But the panel never got around to drawing a compromise map.
As the meeting wrapped up, Democrats called the discussion productive, but Brophy was discouraged.
I thought we were going to draw maps in public today in a transparent process, Brophy said. Im disappointed that we didnt get to do that. If were going to move forward as a committee, I think we ought to commit to do that. Its not that hard, and I thought we had a bunch of communities that we agreed on.
Heath said he was not ready Wednesday to start drawing a map on the fly, and he did not commit to trying to draw a bipartisan map in a future hearing.
Were going to need to talk about this and go to the leadership and see where we are, Heath said.
If the panel meets again, it will not be until next week. Legislators took Friday off for the Easter weekend.
Reach Joe Hanel at firstname.lastname@example.org.