Mormons in Congress 2012

from guest Kay Atkinson King

House Races in Utah Districts 1, 2 and 3: Utah finally Gets its 4th Congressional Seat

Reapportionment and Redistricting in Utah

Between the federal census of 2000 and the census of 2010, the population of Utah increased by 23.8% to 2,763,885 people (Utah Economic and Business Review, 2011, No. 2).  This was enough to give the state a fourth representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.  In the reapportionment after the 2000 census, Utah fell 80 people short of getting its fourth representative in Congress.  Utah doggedly attempted to get its fourth representative first by challenging the reapportionment in court, arguing that the census failed to account for LDS missionaries who were residents but temporarily outside the state.  The state lost in Federal Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling.  Still determined, Utah filed another case, arguing that the method used to apportion representatives did not meet statutory and constitutional conditions.  Again the state was rebuffed by the Supreme Court (Wikipedia: 2000 United States Census; Utah v Evans [2002]).

Later in the decade, another effort was made to get a fourth seat in Congress.  When Democrats retook the House of Representatives after the 2006 election, legislation was introduced to grant the District of Columbia full voting representation in the House of Representatives, but without granting the District full statehood which would require full representation in the U.S. Senate.  That legislation was linked to a proposal to grant a fourth representative to the state of Utah by increasing the number of voting representatives in the House to 437 – one for Utah and one for the District of Columbia.

The legislation provided that after the 2010 census the number of House members would again revert to the statutory number of 435 representatives allocated by population, but the District of Columbia would be in the total number.  This legislation attempted to satisfy the demand for the District to have representation in Congress (which would have been a Democratic representative), but to balance it with the probability of an additional Republican representative from Utah.  The legislation was introduced in the House by D.C.’s non-voting delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and in the Senate by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT).  The legislation passed the House of Representatives, and won 57 affirmative votes in the Senate, but the legislation could not get the 60 votes necessary to avoid a filibuster so it could be taken up by the Senate (Salt Lake Tribune:  “D.C.  looks to get House vote with Utah’s helpDistrict of Columbia Voting Rights Act of 2007).

Despite a determined and consistent effort of Utah officials to get a fourth congressman after the 2000 census, it was not until the reapportionment following the 2010 census that the additional Congressional seat was achieved.  With one additional congressional seat, redrawing the boundaries of the congressional districts became a major political issue.  The Republicans in the state legislature, with significant majorities in both houses (including a 15-4 majority on the committee responsible for drafting the redistricting legislation), choose to deal with the boundaries issue without Democratic participation (Salt Lake Tribune: “Republicans move Utah redistricting talks behind closed doors”).  The final drawing of district boundaries divided Salt Lake County among three of the congressional districts.  According to Republicans, the members of Congress would therefore have to focus on both urban and rural issues.  Democratic officials argued that a creating single district including the urban core of the Salt Lake Valley would be a better district to represent the unique urban concerns of the Salt Lake Valley, and would not divide Democratic votes and add them to larger blocs of Republican voters (Salt Lake Tribune: “Favored redistricting map splits Salt Lake County three ways”).

The geographic distribution of the congressional districts is available online ( Utah Lieutenant Governor: Elections: District Maps).  A quick and over-simplified description of the boundaries is as follows:

  • 1st Congressional District – Weber County (Ogden); Cache County (Logan); north and northeastern Utah.
  • 2nd Congressional District – downtown Salt Lake City; northwestern parts of Salt Lake County (Magna, northern West Valley City);  all of Davis County;  western and southwestern Utah (Toole, Cedar City, St. George).
  • 3rd Congressional District – southeastern Salt Lake County (Sandy east of 700 East – west of that line is District 4); Utah County (Provo, Orem east of I-15); South Eastern Utah (Price, Moab, Monticello).
  • 4th Congressional District – southwestern Salt Lake County (southern West Valley City; South Jordan; Riverton); western Utah County (most areas west of I-15, so, for example, Lehi is in District 4, but American Fork is in District 3); areas south to include Nephi.

An additional Congressional seat and the newly redrawn congressional districts do not promise much new for Utah.   The state will probably continue to send an all-Mormon delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives and the only real question is whether the single Democrat in Utah’s Congressional delegation (Congressman Jim Matheson [D-Utah, 2001-present) will be reelected or whether he will be replaced by a Mormon Republican.  The next blog posting will focus on the Matheson race, which is one of the most interesting and hotly-contested House races in the entire country, involving enormous amounts of money.  The remainder of this post will focus on districts 1, 2 and 3.

1st Congressional District (North and Northeast Utah – Ogden; Logan)

 

Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT 2003 – present) is running for reelection.  He taught American history and government at Box Elder High School, but at the same time he was also active in politics. He was elected to eight terms in the Utah state House of Representatives (1979-1995), serving as Speaker for his last term. He was elected Chair of the Utah Republican Party (1997), and served two terms.  Bishop also was a legislative lobbyist in Washington.  He ran for Congress in 2002, after Congressman Jim Hansen (R-UT 1981-2003) announced his retirement.  Bishop won his first congressional election with 61% of the vote and has been reelected four times since with even larger majorities (Wikipedia: Rob BishopBallotpedia: Utah’s 1st congressional district elections, 2012).  There is little question about his Mormon identity – his official biography mentions that he served a German mission, and his four sons all have names taken from the Book of Mormon.

In his second term in Congress (2005-2007), Bishop was appointed to serve on the House Rules Committee, a particularly prestigious position for a junior member. When Democrats took control of the U.S. House in 2006, Republicans lost five seats on the Rules committee, and Bishop lost his position. He became a member of the Armed Services, Natural Resources, and Education and Labor committees, a large number of committee posts. When Republicans regained the majority in the House in 2011, Bishop resumed his position on the Rules Committee, but his membership on the Armed Services Committee was suspended with a temporary leave of absence.  (Hill Field is an important Federal installation in his district.)  Bishop continued on the Natural Resources Committee and became Chair of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee, a position that is important to Utah, where some 70 percent of the state’s area is public land.  Environmental groups are not particularly enthusiastic about his record on parks and public lands.  The Sierra Club, which rates members of Congress on their environmental votes give Bishop an “F.”

The newly redrawn 1st Congressional District is somewhat different than the previous 1st district, but it still contains most of the core areas that were part of Bishop’s district.  He was one of the few candidates at the Utah state Republican convention to win over 60% of delegate support and thus avoided having to run in the primary.  Bishop won 81% of the delegate votes (Standard Examiner: Bishop, Stewart win GOP primary bids for Congress).

In the general election he faces Democratic candidate Donna M. McAleer.  She graduated from West Point in 1987, served as an Army Officer, and continues to be actively involved in the West Point community as Class President and an Admissions Field Representative.  She earned a master's degree from the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia.  McAleer moved with her family to Park City in 2000 in hopes of earning a slot on the US Olympic women’s bobsled team.  Although she missed qualifying for the Olympic team, she remained in Park City and became Executive Director of the People’s Health Clinic, a non-profit organization based in Summit County, Utah, which helps the uninsured get quality healthcare.  McAleer is the author of Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line, a discussion of women at West Point and in the U.S. Army.  She won the Democratic primary with 67% of the vote (Primary Election Results – ABC4.com).  Ms McAleer is apparently not a member of the Church.  Her biography does not mention membership, and the biographical information available does not have the usual indicators.  Not many LDS women are West Point grads, have served as military officers, and have sought to become Olympic bobsled athletes (Vote Utah 2012. Congress-1).

The Utah State Democratic Chair said Rob Bishop “is in for the fight of his life” (Park City Record:  “Donna McAleer versus Rob Bishop: ‘He is in the for fight of his life’”), but the large Republican registration in the 1st Congressional District plus the opportunity to vote for Mormon for President will bring many Mormon Utah voters to the polls, and this will likely help return Rob Bishop to Congress by a healthy margin.  Despite McAleer’s underdog status, by September 30, she had raised $192,000 for her campaign, which is not that far behind Bishop’s $286,000 (Utah Congressional Races 2012: Open Secrets).

2nd Congressional District (Downtown Salt Lake City, Davis County, St. George, Cedar City)

The old 1st District is very similar to the new 1st District, so it was logical for incumbent Congressman Rob Bishop (R) to run in the new st District.  The old 3rd District is focused on Utah County and southeast Salt Lake Valley, and since the heart of the new 3rd District includes that area, it was logical for incumbent Jason Chaffetz (R) to run for that seat.  The old 2nd District was sliced and diced, so there is less similarity between that district and the new 2nd District or the new 4th District.  Matheson made the decision to run in the 4th District, so the candidates for the new 2nd district do not include an incumbent.  The 2nd District will have five candidates in the general election – the Democratic and the Republican candidates who have a chance to win the race, and two candidates with no party affiliation and one from the Constitution Party, all three of whom do not have much of a chance to win.

The Democratic Candidate, Jay Seegmiller, was born in Utah, attended the University of Utah, has Mormon pioneer heritage (his 2nd great grandfather was mayor of Richfield), and is a member of the Church.  He worked as brakeman, conductor and yardman for the Union Pacific Railroad (1976-1987), and since 1987 he has worked as a conductor for Amtrak.  Seegmiller ran for a seat in the Utah House for a seat representing southeast Salt Lake Valley (Sandy / Cottonwood Heights).  He defeated the incumbent Republican Speaker of the House, the first time in forty years that a sitting Speaker was defeated in an election (Salt Lake Tribune:  “House Speaker Curtis concedes; Democrat takes his seat”).  [The former Speaker was accused of abusing his office for personal financial gain and threatening state employees (Salt Lake Tribune: “Did lawmaker-turned-lobbyist Curtis derail Indian site protection?”).  The former Speaker, a Church member, now lobbies the State of Utah in behalf of clients which include the Altria Group, which was formerly known as Phillip Morris Companies.]  Seeguiller served one term in the Utah House of Representatives (2009-2011), and won the Democratic nod as nominee for the 2nd Congressional District without facing a primary by winning over 60% of the delegate vote at the State Democratic convention.

The Republican Candidate, Chris Stewart, is also a Mormon and native of Utah – born in Logan, grew up on a dairy farm in Cache Valley, attended Utah State, served a mission in Texas, and spent 14 years as an Air Force pilot.  After his military service Stewart and his elder brother Judge Ted Stewart wrote Seven Miracles that Saved America: Why They Matter and Why We Should Have Hopeand The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points that Saved the World.  Both are heavily focused on American exceptionalism, God’s intervention in American history, and “the miraculous creation of the United States constitution.”  The seventh miracle that saved America was “The miracle that saved the life of President Ronald Reagan, allowing him to go on to play a major role in defeating communism smashing the Iron Curtain and ‘tear[ing] down this wall.’”  Radio talk show host Glenn Beck endorsed The Miracle of Freedom, which is credited with the book’s becoming a best seller.  Beck also endorsed a number of Stewart’s other books.  Significantly Beck also conducted a lengthy television interview with Stewart just one week before the Utah state Republican convention.  Stewart won over 60% of Republican convention delegates to win the nomination for the 2nd Congressional District without a primary, though the process was apparently somewhat acrimonious.  Stewart defeated David Clark in the Convention and eight other candidates.  Clark was a former Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives (Election Results: Utah Congressional District 2 Utah Republican PartyDeseret News: “Governor appoints former congressional candidate Dave Clark to Dixie board of trustees”).

In the 2nd Congressional District, registered Republicans exceed registered Democrats, and in 2008 John McCain carried the precincts now included in this district by 56%.  The charges and countercharges about the delegate vote for Stewart in the Republican convention have apparently caused some lingering ill will toward the Republican winner (Salt Lake Tribune: “2nd District turmoil has some GOP looking at Democrat”).  Whether that will be enough to result in the election of the underdog Mormon Democrat rather than the Mormon Republican, will only be known on election night.  The fundraising figures, however, point in a Republican direction.  As of September 30, Seegmiller (D) had raised $87,000 while Stewart (R) had raised $425,000  (Utah Congressional Races 2012: Open Secrets).

3rd Congressional District (Most of Utah County, southeastern Salt Lake County,  Price, Moab, Monticello)

In 2008, Jason Chaffetz – businessman, former chief of staff to Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., former BYU place kicker, former Utah co-chair of the Michael Dukakis Presidential campaign, convert to the Church – defeated incumbent Congressman Chris Cannon (R-UT  1997-2009) in the Republican primary by 60% to 40%.  (This contest is discussed in the blog posting on the Orrin Hatch U.S. Senate reelection effort.  Mormons in Congress 2012 – 6)  Chaffetz won 66% of the general election vote in 2008 and 72% in 2010.

In the Congress Chaffetz is on the Budget Committee, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (where his is also Chair of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations), and the Committee on the Judiciary (where he is one of the few non-lawyers).  He gained some notoriety when he first arrived in Washington by sleeping in his office.  The message – he spends as little time as possible in the Nation’s Capital to spend more time with his constituents (and his family) in Utah.  His charm and smile as well as his quick wit and relaxed demeanor with the press have served him well.  He considered running against Orrin Hatch for the U.S. Senate seat, but as Hatch undertook his single-minded effort to retain his seat, Chaffetz backed off and decided to seek reelection to the redrawn congressional seat (Salt Lake City Weekly: “Chaffetz Revealed:  Scanning Jason Chaffetz inner beingThe Jewish Daily Forward:  “Meet Jewish Senators 14, 15 – and 16?  Plus the House’s Jewish Mormon” Jason Chaffetz Campaign Web Page).

The Democratic candidate who will face Chaffetz in November is Soren Simonsen, a Latter-day Saint born in Salt Lake City.  He is currently serving as Chair of the Salt Lake City Council and is in his second term on the council (2005-present).  Simonsen received 77% of the votes of 3rd Congressional District delegates at the Democratic state convention to win his place on the ballot without a primary.  Simonsen attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a degree in architecture with a focus on urban design and community planning.  He is the first architect in Utah with the LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and he has advocated for sustainable building and community design.  Before he served on the Salt Lake City Council, Simonsen served as Chair of the Salt Lake City Historic Landmark Commission and the Mayor’s Environmental Advisory Committee (Wikipedia: Soren Simonsen; KCPW: “Salt Lake City Councilman Running for Congress;” Sorensimonsen.com).

The outlook for the 3rd Congressional District trends Republican.  The question here is what will be the size of the Republican win?  Will Chaffetz beat the 72% he received in 2010?  The district is somewhat different than the Old 3rd Congressional District, but the core of the district the west side of Utah County and southeast Salt Lake Valley are much the same.  The Old 3rd District has been the “reddest” of the Utah districts, and there are no indications that that has changed.  Furthermore, Chaffetz has raised $748,000 in campaign funds, while his Democratic opponent has raised just $20,000 (Utah Congressional Races 2012: Open Secrets).

Comments

  1. Chris Stewart frightens me.

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