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
"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
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  gubernatorial race," she says.
Politics Flare in Redistricting
Salt Lake Tribune 30Sep01 T2
By Greg Burton and Dan Harrie: Salt Lake Tribune