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Map follows partisan lines

by Jay Hamburger

OF THE RECORD STAFF

State lawmakers on Monday could realign Summit County’s congressional borders, potentially splitting the county between two districts, one that is traditionally Democratic and the other tightly held by the GOP.

A legislative committee this week preparing boundaries should Congress award the state another House of Representatives district recommended that the West Side of Summit County be placed into District 2, the seat held by Democrat Jim Matheson. District 2 is seen as a safe seat for the state’s minority party. North Summit and South Summit would be put into District 3, a Republican stronghold now held by Chris Cannon.

The recommendation followed a key hearing in Park City on Tuesday in which testimony from Parkites was split, with some wanting the county to be wholly contained in one district and others asking that the county be split between two districts.

Those supporting a split argued that doing so would better reflect the political leanings of the county. They said the West Side leans Democratic and the East Side would prefer a more conservative congressman.

Sen. Curt Bramble, a Republican from Provo and the co-chair of the redistricting committee, says the recommendation tries to assuage the Parkites.

"We did listen. We struck a compromise," Bramble says, adding that the compromise shows "it was critical we listen carefully to the minority."

However, others in Summit County, including Park City Mayor Dana Williams, have said that they prefer that Summit County be kept within a single district, as is the case now. Summit County is within the 1st District, represented by Rob Bishop, and before the lines were redrawn after the 2000 census, the county was wholly within District 3.

Bramble acknowledges that the lines could be changed during the debate at the Capitol on Monday.

Congress is considering whether to expand the House of Representatives by two seats, one for the District of Columbia and the other for Utah, which narrowly missed winning a fourth seat after the 2000 census. Republicans would be expected to hold the fourth seat in Utah, which would balance what would likely be a Democratic stronghold in the District of Columbia, which holds a non-voting seat now.

Rep. David Ure, a Republican from Kamas who represents Park City and the East Side at the Statehouse, says the recommendation is reasonable but he is unsure whether he will support the redrawn map. He says he has not conducted detailed research into the proposal.

Ure says he has received comments from people in North and South Summit saying that they do not want to be represented by Matheson. Some people on the West Side have told him they do not want Bishop representing them, Ure says.

"A good majority of the people, they vote on a Democratic ticket," Ure says about people who live on the West Side.

Ure says Summit County could benefit if it is split between two representatives because, he says, more can be accomplished and people have more access to Congress.

"Maybe it’s the best way for us and it does give us two representatives in Congress," he says.

Ross Romero, a Democrat from Salt Lake who represents the Snyderville Basin, like Ure, says he has not studied the details of the recommendation but says that another person representing Utah in Congress is good regardless of their party.

He is unsure if he will cast a ‘Yea’ vote but says he is pleased that the West Side would be put into one district under the proposal.

"They may feel more franchised by having their vote included in a stronger Democratic seat," Romero says about Park City and the Basin.


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