Utah Republicans ponder Matheson’s fate

by
February 26, 2011

By Aaron Blake, The Washington Post

Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson is a political survivor of the first sort, holding down a very conservative Utah House district for the past decade.

But Republicans think Matheson will face his toughest opponent ever: redistricting.

The GOP controls the redistricting process in the Beehive State, and in such a heavily conservative state, the dark-red district that Matheson holds sticks out like a sore thumb.

One way or another, the district is going to be very different when Matheson runs for reelection, because Utah adding a district — from three to four — thanks to population growth.

Everyone agrees the new, 4th district is very likely to be won by a Republican. But the big question is what happens the Matheson’s 2nd district?

Do Republicans go after Matheson and try to take him out, or do they give him a safer district and concede that one Utah district will be held by a Democrat?

There are two basic options for how to re-draw the Utah map. (Be sure to follow along on the  congressional map here)

The first is commonly known as the “doughnut model”. Under that map, Republicans would tie together all the Democratic parts of Salt Lake County, creating for the very first time a safe Democratic district in Utah. This would allow Republicans to draw three safe GOP districts around the rest of the state, ensuring that Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, along with a newly elected Republican, will be reelected handily every two years for the next decade.

The second option is the “wheel model” in which Republicans would create four GOP-leaning districts emanating from Salt Lake City, like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. This would effectively dilute the Democratic base in Salt Lake City — which Matheson relies upon — and still leave four winnable Republican seats.

The more likely option for Republican redistricters is the wheel map. Matheson himself has been very vocal about redistricting — which suggests he’s concerned — and Republicans have suggested that they want four districts with rural components.

“I personally am feeling like I want to have rural representation in all of them, because that’s such a big part of our state,” Republican state Senate President Michael Waddoups told The Fix.

To read more, visit: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/mapping-the-future/mapping-the-future-utah.html

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