Carbon County without local representation? It could happen
The results of the Republican convention concerning the Utah House of Representatives District 69 could change history in the area.
For the first time since Utah became a state and Carbon became a county, all representation at the Utah state legislature, starting next year, could come from elected officials who reside outside the boundaries of the county whose name is synonymous with coal.
Saturday, at that state convention, delegates from Carbon, Duchesne, Emery and Grand selected a candidate to run for the district who resides in Duchesne County. He is now the Republican candidate for the office that will be decided in the fall.
Over the last few years the politics of Carbon County has changed dramatically. Only a short time ago the county elected a Republican (for commissioner) to a county office for the first time since Marion Bliss was Carbon County Sheriff in the early 1940s.
Then two years later the county elected another Republican to the commission and this was totally unprecedented. In the history of the county there had never been two Republicans on the county commission at the same time.
It was during that same election that for the first time a Carbon Republican also beat a Democratic incumbent for the District 69 seat. It was only a few years before that that both the house seat holder and the State Senator that represented this area lived in this county.
When Carbon was divided in two by reapportionment in 2001, with one house seat representing about two thirds of the county and another seat representing the other third, Carbon residents complained that the county should be only in one district.
That kind of a division had never been done before. At that time the western part of the county was represented by a person that lived in Mona, near Nephi.
So when reapportionment was done in 2011, after the U.S. Census was completed, the legislative committee that was assigned the task brought Carbon back under one umbrella, so to speak, again. In District 69, as it stands today, Carbon is the only entire county that is within the representation of the district. However, in making that change, the legislative committee also added a part of Duchesne County, cutting out the Utah/Juab county connection that existed for the decade before.
In the last legislative election, where the tide turned against the Democrats holding the District 69 seat, it changed because Duchesne commanded such a large proportion of the vote. Despite the fact they have a much smaller population that is represented in the district, two things were pivotal to the change. First, Duchesne is a Republican stronghold and the Democrat got few votes from that area. But more importantly was voter turnout. The turnout for voting in Duchesne was over 90 percent while Carbon languished down in the 30s somewhere.
These two things will again be a factor in the coming election. Duchesne is still strongly Republican and the resident running who lives in Carbon is a Democrat. Voting turnout will be a big factor because Duchesne mails out all their ballots (no polls are open on election day). Their returns in the last election were huge.
On the other hand, if history holds as it has been doing in the last decade, Carbon residents will just languish along thinking things will be fine and won't turn out at the polls, or for that fact, even register to vote.
One has to have some sympathy with Duchesne County's residents. District wise they are divided between three different house seats, all of which have representatives sitting in them that don't live in their county.So consequently, they are very excited about the prospect of having at least one person that lives in their county representing them in the legislature.
But if the candidate from Duchesne wins, that will mean there will be no representation residing in Carbon county in the legislature for the 2015 and 2016 sessions.
It seems to me it would be a hard fall for a county that once prided itself in not only being politically active, but also very politically different from other rural counties in the state. But it will also be a hard question to answer when it comes down to voting time for those that go to the polls in the county. Do they vote for a candidate because he resides in Carbon County or do they vote for a candidate because that person is of a certain party?
These will be tough questions to answer in what has been and continues to be hard economic and political times.