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Parties to look at maps

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The Legislature's redistricting committee will take a wide variety of congressional plans and a "base" state House and Senate plan to party caucuses Wednesday.

Democratic state House members weren't real pleased with months of work, but minority senators were more accepting of the committee's actions following a Monday redrawing of several Senate districts.

"If the map can change this much in two hours, think how much it can change in two weeks" before a special legislative session, said Sen. Ron Allen, D-Stansbury Park, of the new state Senate plan. With all

senators, Republicans and Democrats, voting yes, the Legislative Redistricting Committee approved a Senate plan that puts Allen in with Sen. Millie Peterson, D-West Valley City, and splits Tooele County three ways.

"For 75 years Tooele County has had its own senator," and splitting the county up in Senate districts is not a good idea, said Rep. Jim Gowans, D-Tooele.

But, said Allen, it became clear that to ensure that Sen. Paula Julander, D-Salt Lake, and other Democratic senators' seats were "saved," he offered up Tooele County. "My people won't like it. But we kept two Democratic women (senators) from being put in the same district."

Peterson, 57, has served in the Senate since 1990. Because they are combined in one new district, both Allen and Peterson would have to run for re-election in 2002. Peterson is term-limited out in 2006, but Allen, a freshman, could serve for another decade. Allen's current district includes some west-side Salt Lake County neighborhoods, and he said the new district "would have 60 percent of my same voters."

Still, it's uncertain if West Valley residents would accept a senator from small Stansbury Park over the mountains. "I have a life outside of here. I'll decide later" whether to run for re-election next year, said Allen.

"I don't like what they did," said Peterson. "I do plan to run again. So if this prevails, I guess I'll run against a Democrat (Allen) first."

In the end, the committee took care of a number of incumbents, including Julander and Sens. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, and Mike Dmitrich, D-Price. Earlier Senate plans proposed by Republicans had Dmitrich combined with a rural-based GOP senator in a district he probably couldn't win. Now his new southeastern district looks much as it does today, and with a base of Carbon and Emery counties the Senate's minority leader may hold onto his seat.

A new seat — with no incumbent — is created with Cedar City as its base, something Iron County officials wanted. They threatened to sue the state over one previous plan that pushed Dmitrich's district down into Cedar City.

Utah House members aren't so happy, especially the Democrats.

The majority Republicans "have carved districts that harm women, racial and religious minorities," said Meg Holbrook, state Democratic Party chairwoman.

Republicans deny that, saying population shifts inside and outside Salt Lake County required that a number of Democratic House incumbents be combined.

As the base House plan stands now, Reps. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, and Scott Daniels, D-Salt Lake, would be in the same district. House Majority Whip Patrice Arent, D-South Cottonwood, would be in with Rep. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights. Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, would be in with Rep. Cindy Beshear, D-Taylorsville. Rep. Matt Throckmorton, R-Springville, would be in a new district with Rep. Glenn Way, R-Spanish Fork. And Rep. Max Young, D-Moab, would be in with Rep. Jack Seitz, R-Vernal.

There is method in what some may see as the madness of the combinations.

Both Litvack and Daniels are Democratic freshmen, newcomers with little institutional clout. Arent is seen as an up-and-coming Democrat, and this is not the first time that GOP leaders have targeted her for defeat. Holdaway is a teacher, one of the more moderate Republicans in the House, and sometimes is picked upon by his more conservative colleagues.

Way helped draw the Utah County map and put himself in with Throckmorton. Way said he will not run for the House in 2002 and could run for the Utah County Commission next year.

Young won his seat by default in 2000 when long-time GOP Rep. Keele Johnson, R-Blanding, failed to file his financial disclosure statement on time and had his name removed from the final ballot.

The committee adopted seven congressional plans, most of which would push Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson's 2nd District — which is now wholly in Salt Lake County — into various parts of rural Utah. Matheson has already said he may sue the state if he feels the GOP-controlled redistricting is not "fair or constitutional."

E-MAIL: bbjr@desnews.com