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Posted 15 Oct 2001   For week ended October 05, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 10Oct01

By Kent Larsen

Utah Redistricting May Give Matheson Boost

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The Republicans succeeded in remapping Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson's district, dividing his democratic stronghold and adding more republican territory. But Matheson, an LDS Church member like the other Utah congressmen, is not going into political oblivion quietly. And some analysts believe he may actually benefit from the changes.

In an attempt to fight the change, Matheson gave Utah State Senate President Al Mensell's home telephone number to hundreds of Salt Lake City residents as a public relations campaign designed to deride the Republican-crafted district divisions. "Do you think it changed my mind?" Mansell asked later. "Just the opposite -- it made what we were about to do easier."

The redistricting has been an occasion for mud-slinging and accusations of partisanship. Other states have avoided bad feelings by using an independent commission to draw up new boundaries. Idaho, the most Republican state in the nation uses independent commissioners who are barred from holding party offices either before or several years after drawing up the political boundaries.

"What happened in Utah this year -- with both sides -- I feel made the voters feel more disenfranchised," Cassie Dippo of Utah Common Cause says. "It makes them ask, 'Why should I care?' People were fairly disgusted with what was going on." However, Utah Republican leaders argue an independent commission pushes voters out of the process. By having lawmakers determine the boundaries, if voters don't like what's been done, they can vote the Republicans out of office.

"There's no mercy -- that's politics," Paul T. Mero, president of the Sutherland Institute, a Utah-based conservative think tank says. "I have little sympathy for the complainers. . . . What goes around comes around in politics. If Republicans have overstepped their bounds, it might come back to haunt them in the future." While Matheson's "ox may be gored most by redistricting," Mero says, a map drawn by Democrats would be just as unfair to Republicans.

Democrats are hoping the new map will backfire on the Republicans. The new 1st District, controlled by Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen now has Democratic strongholds in Weber, Salt Lake and Summit counties. Also, Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon's 3rd District now contains 366,390 Salt Lake County voters, many of whom do not know their new representative.

Matheson also has an advantage in his new district. His new rural constituents may be Republicans, but they are also very proud of their link to Utah's original Mormon pioneers. Matheson has five generations buried in the Parowan cemetery. Utah Democratic Party Chairwoman Meghan Holbrook says that by attempting to cripple a congressman, Republicans may have hatched a governor. If Matheson manages to hold his suddenly huge district, his influence and support will grow as well, Holbrook says. "The new map sets him up to win hands down in the [2004] gubernatorial race," she says.


Politics Flare in Redistricting
Salt Lake Tribune 30Sep01 T2
By Greg Burton and Dan Harrie: Salt Lake Tribune


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