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Redistricting maps would give Durango a new state senator

Cleave Simpson, a Republican from Alamosa, would replace Don Coram
State Sen. Cleave Simpson with his wife, Cathy, and dog. (Courtesy)

Redistricting happens every 10 years in response to the U.S. census. It reshapes Colorado politics – literally.

On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court approved a new congressional district map for the state, which added an eighth U.S. House district after the 2020 census.

In coming weeks, the Colorado Supreme Court will also decide on a new state legislative map drawn by the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission. If the Supreme Court approves the new state Senate map, which the legislative redistricting commission passed unanimously, Don Coram, Durango’s current state senator, will be replaced by Cleave Simpson, a Republican from Alamosa.

Nov 5, 2021
Redistricting reshapes Southwest Colorado’s Senate District 6

The new districts will not take effect until the 2022 elections, said Jeremiah Barry, managing attorney for the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions.

However, Simpson, who won election in November 2020, will not be up for re-election until 2024.

Final Approved Senate Plan for submission to the Colorado Supreme Court.

If the current map holds, he will in effect become Durango’s new state senator next year.

Simpson would move from District 35, which currently extends from Mineral County to Colorado’s eastern border, to an unrecognizable District 6, which will now include Mineral, Saguache, Rio Grande, Conejos, Alamosa and Costilla counties.

Under the Colorado Constitution, the state Supreme Court must make a decision by Nov. 15. If it does not approve the map, the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission will have 12 days to create a new plan.

According to The Colorado Sun, the new senate District 6 will be among the most competitive in the state. Democrats would have just a 0.5 percentage point advantage based on number of active registered voters.

Meet Sen. Simpson

Simpson was born in Alamosa and studied at Colorado School of Mines. He is a fourth generation farmer and rancher, though he spent much of his professional career working in surface coal mining in Texas and Australia.

If the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Committee’s new state Senate map is approved by the Colorado Supreme Court, Cleave Simpson of Alamosa will replace Don Coram as the state senator for District 6.

Since 2016, Simpson has been the general manager for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, which covers the San Luis Valley. He has also served on the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable and represented the roundtable at the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Interbasin Compact Committee.

“That exposed me to some statewide water issues over the years,” Simpson said.

Water and agriculture are a focal point for Simpson.

In a September 2020 video on his campaign Facebook page, Simpson said, “I have grave concerns about the Front Range siphoning valuable resources away from rural and southern Colorado. As your state senator, I will protect these resources and fight against the one-size fits all approach.

“A lot of what motivated me (to run) was how this state deals with water over the next decade or so. It just has the potential to fundamentally change Colorado,” Simpson said.

When asked how he plans to balance water for agriculture and ongoing growth in Durango, Simpson said he would defer to the Southwest Basin Roundtable, which brings stakeholders together to work through the water needs of the region.

“Municipalities want to grow, too, but grow smart and grow in cooperation with the ag communities that support them,” he said. “Add in the environmental and the recreational components of those discussions, as well, and I think that’s the unique opportunity that the roundtable provides.”

Simpson also pointed to education as one of his legislative priorities.

He was a member of the board of trustees for Adams State University in Alamosa, acting as chairman of the board for a few years.

“Higher ed is one of the things that I certainly value, and I know what these rural institutions mean for our rural economies,” Simpson said.

“It’d be really a privilege and an honor to represent (Fort Lewis College) at the Capitol,” Simpson said.

For the 2021-22 legislative session, Simpson was assigned to the State, Veterans & Military Affairs and Health & Human Services committees. Simpson said that his experience on the Health & Human Services Committee has made public health another one of his priorities.

“I have really tried to invest time and resources and effort into understanding health issues across rural Colorado,” Simpson said. “The counties I represent now are disproportionately affected by behavioral health issues, suicide, death by overdose and impacts from opioids. All that stuff is disproportionately higher in rural Colorado, in the San Luis Valley and down the Arkansas Valley.”

Simpson said the new District 6 would share many similarities with his current district.

However, Simpson did note that he lacks experience working with Indigenous communities. Simpson said he hopes to engage with Native American communities in Southwest Colorado to learn about the challenges they face.

He said he wants to wait for the new state Senate map to be approved before he begins to meet with communities in the region. The challenge, he said, will be to represent his current district while making inroads with District 6 next year.

“I think I’ve built a reputation in the first session of being pretty open-minded,” Simpson said. “I’m a lifelong Republican, I'm conservative, but I think we all want the same thing in the end. We probably all have a little bit different path of how we get there to build solid communities and safe communities where people are happy and can thrive and prosper.”

Simpson said he hasn’t been to Durango since before the coronavirus pandemic. But his favorite memory was a float trip he took with his family on the Animas River.

ahannon@durangoherald.com



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