By Wayne Holland Jr.
During the 2006 election, one local Republican candidate ran against his Democratic opponent arguing his district deserved "a representative in the Utah State Legislature who is seen as more than an interloper in a one-party system."
There was a time when a "one-party system" was something to be ashamed of, but apparently not anymore.
Being perceived as a "one-party" state has not exactly resulted in better treatment for Utah citizens from previous Republican-controlled Congresses or the White House. Having our votes taken for granted by the Republican Party has proven bad for both the democratic process we hold dear and for our state in general.
Perhaps the most glaring recent example was the proposed Divine Strake test. Though eventually canceled, it took considerable outcry from the citizens of Utah. Having Republican congressmen like Chris Cannon speak favorably of the test didn't help matters.
The Republican Party demonstrated again this month why enjoying solid support in Utah won'ttranslate easily into benefits for our state. Utah has been seeking a fourth congressional district since the 2000 census. The Legislature was even called back into special session in 2006 to redraw district boundaries in anticipation of the lame duck Republican Congress finally taking some action on the proposal. They never did.
Within 48 hours of Democrats passing a bill out of committee earlier this month giving Utah the fourth congressional district it has been seeking for seven years, President Bush announced his opposition to it. No more than a couple of more days passed before Sen. Bennett declared the bill's chances in the Senate practically zero as a result.
Republicans serving on Utah's Capitol Hill are not immune to the arrogance that comes with almost absolute power over the legislative process. Public opinion polls have consistently shown strong support among Utahns for their neighborhood public schools. In spite of this fact, vouchers passed the House by one vote and the Senate by nine votes without a single Democrat
voting in favor in either chamber.
Popular reforms that consistently enjoy two-thirds support or greater -- including the creation of a bipartisan redistricting committee, banning or further limiting gifts from lobbyists to legislators and prohibiting legislators from using campaign funds for personal purposes -- rarely
received a hearing in committee, let alone a vote on the floor of the House or Senate.
Perhaps the most significant of the reform measures introduced by Democrats during the 2007 session, but denied even the benefit of a debate in committee, was Rep. Roz McGee's legislation creating a bipartisan redistricting commission. Utah is not nearly as monolithic as it appears. Upward of 43 percent of Utahns vote entirely or partially Democratic in just about every election. Unfortunately for Utah's voters, our Legislature has acquired national renown for using the redistricting process to select their voters instead of enabling voters to hold their legislators accountable.
After the 2000 census, Utah's redistricting fiasco garnered attention in papers like the Wall Street Journal, which pointed in disgust at the moving of nearly 700,000 voters from one congressional district to another in a blatant attempt to get rid of Congressman Jim Matheson. The Standard-Examiner, The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News were openly critical of this blatant gerrymandering, as well.
It has become apparent the voices of Utah voters are not being heard on key issues. The Utah Democratic Party commends those willing to exercise their constitutional rights to be the ultimate "deciders" in Utah by pursuing referenda to ensure they are finally heard, and commits itself to continuing to fight for their interests into the future.
Holland is chairman of Utah's Democratic Party.