With congressional map done, time for candidates to pick a race

Redrawn map for Congress opens several options

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 18 2011 11:38 p.m. MDT

U.S. Representative Jim Matheson (D) reads a letter written by President George W. Bush regarding the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at the Utah Healing Field 9/11 Flag Memorial and Hope Rising Unveiling Ceremony at Sandy City Hall on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Now that lawmakers have set the boundaries for the state's congressional districts, the pressure is on would-be candidates to pick a race.

There's already a list of contenders for the 2nd District seat held by the state's lone Democrat in Congress, Jim Matheson, and for the new 4th District seat.

Matheson is among those still considering his options for 2012 — which may be increasing.

"There's more than one congressional district to look at, clearly," he said Tuesday. "And I've got other races on the table, too."

The six-term congressman has already said he's considering another bid for the 2nd District, as well as the adjacent 4th District, which includes western Salt Lake and Utah counties.

Matheson also continues to mull a challenge to GOP Gov. Gary Herbert or Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

"Everyone knows me across the state," he said. "I've always felt I represent the state."

Matheson said the new map puts a lot of his current constituents in the 3rd District, represented by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. The map approved by the Legislature late Monday effectively flips much of the 2nd District from the western side of the state to the east.

"It creates a lot of different choices," Matheson said of the map. He promised to announce his decision "sooner rather than later." 

Chaffetz noted the new 3rd District "is about 75 percent different than what I had in the past" and includes five new rural counties.

"It's a totally different map, but I'm fine with it," he said.

The Legislature's redistricting efforts were "a messy, ugly process to say the least," Chaffetz said.

"But it is what it is," he said, confirming he'll run again in the 3rd District.

The redrawn district now includes Chaffetz's Alpine home. Congressional candidates only have to live in the state they seek to represent, not the district.

"I was only three miles or so outside the district. People didn't care," Chaffetz said.

He said he hoped Matheson was not serious about taking him on. "He's a very formidable challenger. But I also plan to win in the 3rd."

Chaffetz had also looked at running against Hatch, but recently ruled out that race and left one less open congressional seat next year.

That meant GOP candidates who didn't want to take on Chaffetz had to consider a change of plans.

"I didn't think it would be responsible to commit one way or another until I had seen the maps," one of those candidates, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, said.

"I'm going to look at the 2nd and the 4th, look at the numbers and see where my strengths might be and hopefully, in a few days, decide where I'm running," he said. "I need to make a decision pretty darn quick."

Sandstrom said he'll move his family into whichever district he decides to run in, likely after the 2012 Legislature so he can continue to hold his state House seat.

"I want to be committed to that district," Sandstrom said. His family, he said, sees the move "as an adventure. So what the heck?"

Sandstrom said he lives in the 3rd District, about 15 blocks from the 4th District. At one point Monday, Sandstrom said GOP lawmakers expressed interest in a map that would have put him only a few feet outside the 2nd District.

Lawmakers already had put Sandstrom in the same state House district as Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo. Herrod said Tuesday he won't run for Congress because the new congressional map puts him in Chaffetz's district.

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