Letter to the Editor

By Jim Matheson Congressman, 2nd District


I am writing in response to John Morley’s recent column on Utah’s redistricting process in The Daily Utah Chronicle.

Like John, I am disappointed in the outcome of what most Utahns see as an unfair, blatantly partisan exercise. From newspaper editorials to resolutions adopted by local elected officials to public citizens who spoke at numerous meetings held by the legislative redistricting committee statewide, Utahns saw the Republican plan as not fair and bad for voters.

I understand the tendency to try to assign blame and to commiserate over perceived losses. But if that is the only action we take, we are missing the point and what I believe is an important opportunity as well.

Ten years ago, Republicans engaged in a similarly unfair attempt to redraw boundaries in a way that would consolidate their hold on power. They created what they hoped was a Republican 2nd District for then Democratic incumbent Wayne Owens.

Because another Democrat?Bill Orton?held the 3rd congressional district seat, they weren’t able to successfully promote the “rural-urban” ruse as they had hoped.

Since 1991, both Republicans and Democrats have held the 2nd District seat. Partisan leaders control how the maps are drawn. But party leaders don’t elect officeholders; people do. Utah is known as a state of independent-minded citizens, who vote for the person, not the party as often as not.

That, for me, helps dispel the doom and gloom predictions that redistricting is the end of the road for diversity in elected office in our state.

I do not assume, as Republican party leaders apparently do, that folks outside of Salt Lake County are uninterested in leaders who stand up for Utah, who look for bipartisan solutions on issues that affect their lives, such as jobs, education and health care.

I was raised with the philosophy that no party has a lock on good ideas. Whether it’s helping promote science and math education for Utah school children, or improving our state’s transportation options or finding better ways to produce cleaner, cheaper, I have tried to make Utah’s priorities my priorities.

That will not change, even though my Congressional district boundaries will.

Now is not the time to feel powerless or irrelevant. To the contrary?we need to be energized, to look forward, to join hands and to rise to this challenge. Instead of seeing an ending, I view this as a beginning. I need your help.

Redistricting should not be the last word in our public dialogue.

Jim Matheson Congressman, 2nd District