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Democrats last held legislative majorities in the Utah House in 1975, and in the Utah Senate in 1977.
Wright notes that urban areas where the Democratic Party has done well historically have had slow growth in recent decades, while rural and suburban areas that support the GOP more have seen faster growth — so they have been gaining legislative seats. He said that has more to do with GOP gains than any gerrymandering.
2013 Utah Legislature majorities
House » 61-14 for Republicans, 81.3 percent — second-highest in the past 80 years, behind 85.5 percent in 1967.
Senate » 24-5 for Republicans, 82.8 percent — matches the previous record for the past 80 years, in 1983.
Mormon compatibility » Dabakis says he knows his party must make a case that it is not too liberal, and also that its stands are compatible with beliefs of the state’s heavily Mormon population — especially in rural areas that are more LDS than urban areas.
"Democrats are completely compatible with LDS ideas, and given the [Republicans’] dramatic move to the right over the last few years, LDS people are probably better represented by Democrats because they are more moderate," Dabakis argued.
A 2004 state government history of elections show shifts of control in the Legislature can come fast, which may give Democrats some hope. For example, it said Democrats held all Utah Senate seats in 1897, but the party lost control by 1903. On the other hand, Republicans held 95 percent of Utah Senate seats in 1927, and lost its majority two years later.
Wright said that is not lost on Republicans.
"It’s a mandate when you have over 80 percent of the Legislature being Republican, and the people are saying, ‘We trust you,’ " he said. "If we use the trust appropriately, I think the trend [of growing GOP majorities] will continue. If we misuse the trust, then we stand in jeopardy of losing seats over time."
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