Utah Democrats pick ex-S.L. County Mayor Peter Corroon as party chairman

Published: Saturday, April 26 2014 3:44 p.m. MDT

Former Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon was elected as chairman of the Utah Democratic Party at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 26, 2014.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Democrats elected a familiar face to lead their party Saturday.

Former Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corrron defeated BYU political science professor Richard Davis in the race for state Democratic Party chairman.

"I'm excited to be back in the game again after a year," Corroon said after winning the vote 68 percent to 32 percent at the state Democratic Party convention. "If we want change in Utah, I have to be part of that change and help make a difference."

About 1,300 delegates gathered at the Salt Palace Convention Center to hear speeches and nominate candidates. In addition to the party chairmanship, Democrats had contested races in the 1st and 4th congressional districts.

Corroon succeeds colorful state Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who resigned as chairman last month for health reason after nearly three years on the job. He said he has big shoes to fill but would take a more understated approach to the job.

"You won't have as big a personality running the show," Corroon said.

Corroon said he has a 29-county plan to make the Democrats more effective statewide.

"We can pat ourselves on the back in Salt Lake County, but until we have organizations in each of the counties, we will never be successful throughout the state," he said. "There are some counties in the state where the Democratic Party doesn't exist."

Davis tried to appeal to delegates by saying he accomplished what Dabakis started in reaching out to LDS Church members. He said he effectively recruited Democratic candidates and increased the number of votes they received against GOP opponents in several legislative races.

In the 1st Congressional District, Donna McAleer won the nomination over Peter Clemens 66.3 percent to 33.6 percent after two rounds of voting. She missed winning on the first ballot by two votes. Candidates need 60 percent of the vote to avoid a primary election.

"I'm thrilled, I'm relieved and I'm focused," she said afterward.

McAleer, who lost to Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, by a wide margin two years ago, lists education, environment and equality as her top three issues.

"I will fight for all," she said, "no matter who you love, what language you speak where you come from or what god you believe in."

Congress needs to get the country back on track, not right or left, but forward, she said.

McAleer, the executive director of the nonprofit People's Health Clinic in Summit County, said Bishop's 12 years in office is long enough.

"Who does the government work for? The people or Rob Bishop?" she asked.

McAleer said she intends to go after independent and unaffiliated voters. "We need to reach across the aisle and get new voters to turn out," she said.

Clemens, an Ogden doctor, called Bishop a "yes man" for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"I think the Bishop needs to be released with a vote of thanks," he said.

In the 4th Congressional District, Salt Lake attorney Doug Owens crushed Bill Peterson 98 percent to 2 percent for the nomination. Owens, the son of the late former Democratic Rep. Wayne Owens, said he's the only hope for keeping Mia Love out of Congress. Love won the GOP nomination Saturday.

Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson currently holds the office but decided to step away after seven terms.

Owens described himself as someone who could reach across the political aisle with common sense solutions to the nation's problems. He said every American is entitled to education, decent housing and a living wage.

"If I can work with the French, I can work with the Republicans," he said, noting he served an LDS Church mission to France.

Democrats also nominated Charles Stormont for attorney general, state Sen. Luz Robles for the 2nd Congressional District seat and Brian Wonnacott for the 3rd Congressional District seat. All three ran unopposed.

Stormont, an assistant attorney general, will challenge his boss, Republican Attorney General Sean Reyes, in the general election.

Robles and Wonnacott face Rep. Chris Stewart and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, respectively, in November.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy; DNewsPolitics

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