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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.
Jim Matheson's plans
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. And I've got other races on the table, too.
–Rep. Jim Matheson
"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 plans to stay in 3rd District
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.
It's a totally different map, but I'm fine with it.
–Rep. Jason Chaffetz
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.
Potential candidates changing plans
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."
I'm going to look at the 2nd and the 4th (districts), look at the numbers and see where my strengths might be and hopefully, in a few days, decide where I'm running.
–Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem
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.
"For the last two weeks, I've pretty much known that's what it would be," Herrod said. "Even though it won't benefit me for a congressional run, I can't complain about the process. I think it was a fair process."
Herrod said he's contemplating a run against Hatch.
"I would have much preferred the congressional run," he said. "But that's life."
Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, said he pushed hard to boost the strength of southern Utah in the 2nd District. But, Clark insisted, that wasn't because he may run for that seat in Congress.
He said he was trying "to get a greater voice for southern Utah, the long and short of it. How other people want to interpret that is up to them."
Another potential 2nd District GOP candidate, Morgan Philpot, said he was disappointed with how the map turned out. He narrowly lost to Matheson last year and saw many of the areas where he had support then shifted out of the district.
(Matheson's) the one Democrat no Republican wants to face. With that said, he's in an uphill battle, no matter which race he enters.
–Kirk Jowers, Hinckley Institute of Politics
"They really did a deed on those things, and we've got to consider what's best," Philpot said.
He said he's leaning now toward the 4th District race, where he believes Matheson will chose to run.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, announced even before the map was done that he was a candidate in the 4th District.
"I am full steam ahead, very aggressively raising money," Wimmer said.
He has already collected more than $150,000, but he had to postpone a fundraiser when the special session on redistricting lasted longer than expected.
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Wimmer's early entry into the race puts him in a strong position, especially now that he has a district "that should give him the best possible chance to win."
There is no talk yet of anyone trying to replace Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, in the 1st District, which now includes the Uinta Basin. Bishop's spokeswoman, Melissa Subbotin, said he "didn't want to lose that much of Davis County, but I am confident that he will represent the Basin well."
Jowers said Matheson is the "800-pound gorilla" in the mix.
"He's the one Democrat no Republican wants to face," he said. "With that said, he's in an uphill battle, no matter which race he enters."
Jowers said the candidates should choose their races soon.
"I expect, within the next two weeks, we will have a pretty good idea of who is running where," he said, even though candidates may not formally declare until December or even January.
Lawmakers must adjust the state's congressional, legislative and school board boundaries every 10 years to reflect population changes identified in the census.
While the Legislature's work on redistricting is done, Gov. Gary Herbert still has to take action on their maps and is being urged to veto the congressional plan by Democrats and advocates of an independent redistricting process.
Herbert spokeswoman Ally Isom said the governor "feels it's premature to comment or editorialize on the superficial appearance of the map. He wants to get into the details."