Instead of Huntsman's preliminary idea, committee leaders said, the state's most populous county may be divided among three of the four districts. A redrawn 2nd District could include Summit, Daggett and Morgan counties as well as Salt Lake City, the city's Rose Park and other parts of Salt Lake County.
"These are not set in stone. They're meant to be the starting point for discussion," said Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, co-chairman of the redistricting committee. "We've come up with something that looks fairly benign."
But even as Bramble was drawing his new map, House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, warned that any plan that split the county into parts of three districts would only come if Salt Lake County was the "population center of at least two of the districts."
Translation: get Matheson out of my Sandy district, I nearly lost my election to him. Here is the committee, tell me with a straight face this won't be a hyper-partisan 'screw Matheson again' map.
Jeremy Roberts, a Salt Lake County GOP activist, wants a GOP party resolution that says that "only states should have voting representation in the U.S. House and Senate — and so it is unconstitutional to let the District of Columbia have a House seat." Ergo, one for Utah, none for D.C. I am sure it has nothing to do with the white, Republican nature of Utah and the Black, Republican nature of D.C....nothing at all.
Here are some more hints about where the committee is thinking of going:
Only about half of strongly Democratic Salt Lake City is in the existing 2nd District.
As for the rest of Salt Lake County, Bramble said some westside portions should go to a redrawn 3rd District along with a sliver of Tooele County. And the rest of Salt Lake County — including Sandy — could be part of a new 4th District "centered" in St. George.
Curtis, who went through the bruising redistricting in 2001, has said that the 2nd District — now held by Utah's only Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson — must be a mostly Democratic seat. Otherwise, Democrats in Congress will not go along with the proposed deal that would give the District of Columbia one voting House seat and give Utah another House seat."
Again, translation for Speaker Curtis: Matheson is unbeatable, so let's give him a safer House seat, so he won't take out other Republicans.
Matheson in recent elections has won more than 60 percent of the vote in this part of his huge geographic district, which also takes in eastern and southern Utah. In the 2006 election, Matheson got more than 70 percent of the Salt Lake County vote. Matheson also has a bit of northeastern Utah County, where he has been beaten by his GOP opponent.
Matheson is already safe, as his victory in November proved. He will never be seriously challenged again unless there is another 2002 like year, but that was the magic combination of a very GOP year and redistricting where Jim had 33% new constituents who didn't know him. He got crushed in Washington County and still eked out a win. Now, he places respectably in Washington County, thanks to all his hard work getting federal money for the St. George airport and other items.