Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Davis County Clipper: Utah Democrats face challenges

by Jenniffer Wardell

BOUNTIFUL — It may not be easy being the minority party, but that’s still no reason to give up.

That was the message Utah Democratic Party State Chair Wayne Holland, Jr. brought to the Bountiful Rotary during their meeting last week. Holland, who is also the Western Chair for the Democratic National Party Committee, talked about the state party’s efforts to make sure their voices are heard in a state that’s viewed as being dominantly Republican.

“American politics is about two parties – the marketplace of society,” he said. “In Utah, it’s a bit of a challenge.”

A challenge, perhaps, but not an impossible one. Holland explained that, across the decades, the western United States has traditionally swung back and forth when it comes to political party affiliation. Though he admitted that Utah and Idaho regularly lag behind when it comes to movement toward the left, he points to the increase in Democrats in public office over the last several years as a sign that changes can be made.

“Candidates such as (U.S. Rep.) Jim Matheson and (Salt Lake County Mayor) Peter Corroon allows us to go in front of voters who were traditionally Republican and give them an opportunity for change,” said Holland.

Of course, change sometimes needs a little help. As part of their efforts to get some Democratic representation from Utah into the White House, Holland and the state party encouraged candidates in some rural area races that hadn’t seen competition from the Democratic party in nearly 50 years.

“We knew it would be kind of futile,” he said. “But if we wanted candidates such as Matheson to have a chance, we knew we would have to build a statewide party.”

He also noted some of the difference between the Utah Democratic Party and the national group, including the fact that what is defined as “left” in Utah is much closer to the middle in other parts of the country.

“There’s a real regionalness,” said Holland. “For example, Mitt Romney – a Republican – knew he had no chance of being elected governor of Massachusetts without taking positions to the left of many Democrats in Utah.”

Some Rotary members complained that all elected officials, Democrats and Republicans alike, go too far to the right or left after being put into office. Holland responded by saying that extremism is a natural side effect of the people who get involved in politics.

“It’s the grass roots people (the ones who feel strongly about particular issues) who attend caucus meetings and get involved,” he said. “Most people are more mainstream, but because of that it’s difficult to get them involved in the party apparatus.

“Candidates know they need to keep the people who are involved on their side if they want to become successful.”


Photo:  DEMOCRATIC PARTY State Chair Wayne Holland, Jr. (front) addressing the Bountiful Rotary.

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