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A stretch for Matheson?

Proposal for 2nd District includes S.L., eastern Utah

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A new western Utah congressional seat with no incumbent? Or pushing Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson's district into northeastern and southeastern Utah and make it more Republican?

Those are but two of the new U.S. House redistricting proposals that will be presented Thursday to a special legislative committee whose task is to redraw boundaries for Utah's three U.S. House seats, 29 state Senate, 75 state House and 15 State School Board districts.

Utah House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, R-Layton, is the main author of what is called the C1 plan. "It makes the most sense and is the easiest," Garn said Wednesday morning. That plan gives Matheson, the sole Democrat in the congressional delegation, all of Salt Lake City in his 2nd District.

But it also gives him counties in northeastern and southeastern Utah. "No matter what is finally adopted (by the Legislature)," Garn said, "the 2nd District will have all of Salt Lake City and rural components." In Salt Lake County, the 2nd District would include all of Salt Lake City, the eastern part of West Valley City, all of South Salt Lake, the east-side areas of Canyon Rim, East Millcreek, Cottonwood Heights, all of Sandy, Draper, Riverton and Bluffdale.

Rep. Jim Hansen's 1st District would get Magna and the western side of West Valley City. Rep. Chris Cannon's 3rd District would get Taylorsville, Murray, Midvale, West Jordan, South Jordan and Herriman.

State Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, is co-chairman of the Legislative Redistricting Committee. He will present a different plan Thursday, one that would lump Hansen, R-Utah, in with Matheson (Hansen's 1st District would include Salt Lake City, where Matheson lives). Cannon's 3rd District would take in Utah County and much of central and eastern Utah and a new district, with no incumbent U.S. House member, would run down the west side of the state and take in western Salt Lake County.

"I think this makes sense," said Waddoups. Although he adds: "Jim Hansen hates it." Waddoups said he believes his plan "has the support of many of my (GOP) colleagues in the Senate."

"The (Utah) House won't accept Waddoups' plan. That is clear," Garn said.

And so a showdown is set.

"I think ultimately we'll adopt the C1 plan, but we'll have to tweak it some," Garn said.

Matheson — who last week presented his own plan, which just shifts his current boundary in Salt Lake City to include parts of Rose Park and Glendale on the city's west side — has said he will sue the state if the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt adopt a redistricting plan that "greatly harms" the 2nd District. Matheson couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

Garn said he did not follow a suggested plan presented last May by Hansen and Cannon. "I really didn't look at that," Garn said. However, that plan is similar to the C1 plan in that Matheson's district would stretch from Idaho to Arizona down the east side of the state.

In a Tuesday meeting with Waddoups over the congressional plans, Garn said some House Republicans joked that the new, no-incumbent district in Waddoups' plan happens to include Taylorsville, and so Waddoups could run for Congress with no GOP incumbent.

Waddoups said people are telling him the new district "is called the Rob Bishop district" — named after the just-retired state GOP chairman and former speaker of the Utah House, who lives in Brigham City, the northern end of Waddoups' new district.

Since 1980 when Utah received its third congressional seat, the 2nd District has been wholly located in Salt Lake County. The district has bounced between Democratic and Republican representatives for 20 years. And with Republicans barely in control of the 435-member U.S. House, it was likely Utah Republicans would push to make Matheson's 2nd District more Republican.

Garn admits that his new 2nd District would be more Republican — but only 2 percentage points more Republican than Matheson's current district. "It goes from 57 percent Republican to 59 percent Republican. We see Jim Matheson's plan — in which he takes more Salt Lake City west-side neighborhoods — as a blatant attempt to make his district more Democratic," Garn said.

Other congressional plans will be presented Thursday, Waddoups said. And if the committee can't finish its work, Waddoups and House co-chairman Gerry Adair, R-Roy, may call the committee to work on Friday as well. Ultimately, some "firm" options will be taken next Wednesday to House and Senate GOP caucuses during a legislative interim committee day. "And we hope to have some votes" out of caucus on which plan will be presented at a Sept. 25 special legislative session, Waddoups said.

E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com