Peter Billings Jr., a local attorney running for state Democratic Party chairman, has picked Kay Christensen, chief of staff to Rep. Wayne Owens, to be his vice chairwoman running mate.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Kelly Atkinson, who is challenging Billings for the party's top post, says he's considering D'Arcy Dixon as his vice chairwoman running mate. Dixon is married to state Rep. Frank Pignanelli, who is the legal counsel to the labor union Atkinson heads, and is the daughter of GOP Salt Lake County Recorder Katie Dixon.Christensen is a long-time Democratic worker. "Kay is possibly the most experienced, if not the best, campaign manager the Democratic Party has at this point in time," Billings said.

Christensen was considering running for the chairmanship herself several months ago. Owens is up for election in 1990, and the Republicans will make it their key race, so Owens has an interest in who's the next chairman.

But Owens said Christensen would have had to give up her job as his chief of staff and head of his Salt Lake office to take the party post and Owens didn't want to lose her. She can be party vice chairwoman and keep her job, he believes.

Christensen worked on Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 campaign and was state campaign director for the Carter/Mondale campaigns of 1976 and 1980. In 1984, she was deputy campaign manager for Owens' gubernatorial bid and in 1986 was his campaign manager in his successful congressional race.

Dixon has also worked in the Democratic Party for some time. She is currently the state party secretary.

Billings is supported in his race by many Democratic big-hitters: former Govs. Scott M. Matheson and Calvin Rampton, former Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson and Owens. Picking Christensen ties Billings closer to those supporters but also is an attempt to convince Democratic delegates to June's state convention - where the chairman and other officers will be picked - that he will run good federal and state campaigns for Democratic candidates in 1990. Christensen will head up a special campaign director training program within the party, Billings promises.

Atkinson is counting on the support of the 300-odd labor delegates as well as other groups in his race.