Utah Democratic candidates trying to woo GOP voters

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 8 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

"My strategy is to be able for them to feel comfortable enough as an independent to switch over. I think sometimes people try to make it too much of a gimmick," he said. "You have to have issues that people believe in."

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis, says the GOP has left mainstream Republicans, noting tea party members found former Sen. Bob Bennett too liberal.

"The Republicans have shifted dramatically off the edge of the cliff, so that's been helpful," he said.

Wright said the tea party didn't have much influence this year, noting the GOP had its most mainstream group of delegates at the state convention in a long time. It's Democrats, he said, who are being disenfranchised with a slate of candidates that don't stand up for their party's platform.

Howell, Cooke, McAdams and Seegmiler consider themselves moderates, and Dabakis said he hasn't gotten any pushback on them from more liberal party members.

"We certainly haven't found any hesitancy toward those kind of high-caliber candidates as our standard bearers," he said.

Dabakis also has made a concerted effort to attract Mormon Republicans, who he says the GOP has too long taken for granted. The fledgling LDS Dems caucus has grown dramatically since its inception last fall, now approaching 2,000 members.

At the LDS Dems meeting during the state Democratic convention in April, all former Republicans were asked to stand. Crystal Young-Otterstrom estimated 80 percent stood.

"It certainly was a shock to see so many of us standing," said the one-time Republican and now LDS Dems chair.

Dabakis said the effort is as much about reaching out to LDS people as it is Republicans. "We just want to create a tent in the Democratic Party in Utah and nationally that LDS people can feel comfortable in."

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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