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Democrats see red over final Republican reeapportionment plans — 12 seats in jeopardy

SHARE Democrats see red over final Republican reeapportionment plans — 12 seats in jeopardy

With only a few flashes of temper, a special legislative redistricting committee voted Thursday, mostly along partisan lines, to redraw the state's three U.S. House seats, 75 state House, 29 state Senate and 15 State School Board districts.

While redrawing the Senate seats went rather well — until a last-minute hitch that split Tooele County three ways, angering Democrats — the Utah House plan proved a bitter pill for members of the minority party.

"Twelve Democrats (in the House) out of 24 are eliminated or put in jeopardy" of defeat by the Republican-adopted plan, said Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party.

Republicans on the Legislative Redistricting Committee adopted a "base" plan for all 75 House seats a week ago. Late into Wednesday night, House Democrats worked to modify that plan for the 30 House seats in Salt Lake County, hoping the Republicans would give in to some of their proposed changes.

House Minority Whip Patrice Arent said the "adjustments" made by Democrats didn't really affect any of the seats now held by Republicans. Instead of six sitting representatives, five of them Democrats, being lumped into the same districts in the county under the Republicans' plan, only four would have been placed together under the Democratic plan.

"If we could have (redrawn the Republican map) from scratch, it would have made a lot more sense," Arent said, adding that the original Democratic plan had few representatives pushed into the same districts.

But GOP members would hear none of the minority Democrats' changes. When Arent wanted to quiz GOP committee members on why their map made more sense — after she was grilled by some GOP representatives over her map — committee co-chairman Rep. Gerry Adair said her questions were "inappropriate."

In the end, eight sitting representatives across the state are lumped in pairs in four new districts. And only one of those, Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, is a Republican.

The pairings are: Reps. David Litvack and Scott Daniels, both D-Salt Lake; Holdaway and Rep. Cindy Beshear, D-Taylorsville; Arent, D-South Cottonwood, and Rep. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights; and Rep. Brad King, D-Price, and Rep. Max Young, D-Moab.

In the Senate, only Sen. Ron Allen, D-Tooele, and Sen. Millie Peterson, D-West Valley, are in the same district. All current GOP senators and other Democrats are in separate districts.

Arent said the pairings aren't the only problems with the GOP plan. For example, House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake, now represents Capitol Hill. Under the GOP plan a GOP-held House seat from Davis County would come over from Bountiful to take in Capitol Hill. Becker's district would stretch from Memory Grove, up Parleys Canyon all the way to The Canyons ski resort outside of Park City. What sense does that make? asked Arent.

If the Legislature — where Republicans hold two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate — finally adopts the committee's recommendations in a Sept. 25 special session, then come the 2002 elections at least four sitting House Democrats and one Democratic senator will be gone — unless they move out of their district and into a GOP-held district and win there. That is unlikely.

"We know you (Republicans) hold two-thirds majorities" in the Legislature," Arent said. But redistricting every 10 years "should not be a process where overall representation is shifted" by political parties. "It should not just be one party losing" because of population shifts, she said.

Republicans on the committee, as they have all along, said they redrew the lines based on what is best for the citizens, not what is best for individual lawmakers, keeping the one-man-one-vote goal paramount.

Plans for redrawing the three current U.S. House seats, a four-seat congressional plan (which could take effect if Utah wins a federal law suit seeking another seat), the 75 state House and 29 state Senate seats and the 15-member State School Board can be found on the Legislature's web site at www.le.state.ut.us.

E-MAIL: bbjr@desnews.com