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LAME-DUCK SHEPHERD SAYS SHE HAS FEW REGRETS

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Two years ago when she arrived in Washington, the first thing Rep. Karen Shepherd, D-Utah, told the press, was, "We all know we're here to change the way Congress works. We also know we won't be back unless we do it."

Shepherd, before she cast her final vote Tuesday as a lame-duck, defeated House member, lamented, "I was right.""We didn't change the way we did business," she said, although she is proud she was co-chairwoman of the Democratic Freshman Task Force on Reform, which pushed reforms through the House but could not achieve final passage. "Trying is worthless. You've got to do it."

She added, "I'll make the same prediction about this Congress: If they don't change the way they do business, they're not going to be here very long."

Shepherd said, "They're backing off the reorganization of committees. If they back off term limits, lobbyist reform and campaign finance reform, I think there will be consequences. Since the people now in charge of the Republican Party were our chief adversaries, I'm not hopeful they'll do it."

Shepherd, in her last visit to Congress, she said she has few regrets, is proud of her work - and isn't all that sad to be leaving Congress.

"I'm glad we had this lame-duck session so I could come back and say goodbye appropriately to my friends," she said. "I've been telling them that the only thing worse than losing would be winning."

She explained, "My constituents would be amazed if they knew I worked 16 hours a day six days a week, that I spent weekends on airplanes shuttling back and forth so I could meet with them."The amount of displacement and fatigue and loneliness and family separation is enormous," she said.

She said that the thanks from too many people is hostility.

She said she is especially grateful for a call she received from former Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, about that. "He said, `I want to thank you for your public service because I know what you've been through, I know all the people who have yelled at you, I know about the hostility.'

"It was a great call for me because it's easy to think it's just you, that if you had just done things right, no one would have treated you this way."

Shepherd says she worries that "fewer and fewer people - good people, people willing to make that kind of personal sacrifice - will seek this job. And then they will start seeking this job for other reasons. It's almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people think we're worse than we are, then we will become what they expect."

Legislatively, Shepherd said she would change nothing - and said she prides herself on always voting her conscience. That often brought criticism on votes such as to hike taxes to reduce the deficit - or to cut the space station, even though it might hurt Utah jobs.

"Every one of those votes is more important to me now that I've lost the election because the worse thing I could think of is that I could look back and think that I had somehow compromised what I thought was best."

She said she is proud that the deficit was cut during the past two years but said Democrats were unable to convince the public that it actually occurred.

"I think the ordinary Joe and Jane still most likely believe that their taxes were increased - even though they weren't - and they're still more likely to believe that the deficit hasn't gone down - and it has," she said.

Shepherd said that during her two years in office, "I loved working on the issues that affected Utah."

She especially is proud of her fight against an Army plan to launch missiles that would drop boosters on public lands near Canyonlands National Park and for a bill that bans shipment to Utah of aging chemical arms for destruction.

As for future plans, Shepherd said, "I'm not sure what I want to do: whether I want to enter another fire pot, or if I want to be in a teaching environment or a writing environment."

She has not ruled out another run for political office.