PROVO — Utah County Democrats elected Roger Layton of Springville as the new county chair at the Utah County Democratic Convention Tuesday.

Layton replaces John Curtis, who served for one year as chairman for the Utah County Democratic Party. Maria O'Brien of Orem will serve as vice chair. About 60 Utah County Democrats at the convention unanimously approved of the new executive committee.

"I'm excited about the new leadership," Curtis said. "These guys are very qualified, they are very enthusiastic."

Curtis said the Utah County Democratic Party has seen steady growth during the past number of years and hopes the new leadership will continue building support.

"Every year we've seen steady growth," Curtis said. "When you are small, it doesn't take a lot of growth to increase dramatically in your size. I think one of the biggest issues that we've always faced is letting the people of Utah County know who we are and what we stand for.

The biggest obstacle the Utah County Democratic Party faces is keeping an identity in a Republican-dominated county, Layton said.

"We need to get the (Democratic) name out there and let people know we're not something to be afraid of — that we have something to offer," Layton said.

Utahns need to erase the preconceived notion of Democrats and Republicans and look at what the candidates stand for who are running for office, former congressman Bill Orton said.

"Vote for the people that are best qualified and who represent your values and interests the most," Orton said. "That is what these (new) leaders have to do. They just have to get people to open up and think about it and start voting their own interests." Layton has had problems getting Republicans to listen to him before. In an unsuccessful run for county commissioner in 2002, Layton said people believed in what he had to say — until they found out he was a Democrat.

"I went to a meeting when I was running for office," Layton said. "It was a good meeting and everyone was happy until I said the word 'Democrat.' Everyone turned and looked at their shoes."

The heart of the Democratic party represents the majority of the people in Utah Valley, Layton said.

"People have this irrational fear of Democrats," Layton said. "We're just ordinary people. I don't think anyone in here is rich. We're just people who have regular jobs, small businesses and we're just ordinary Utahns. We want a party that cares about people.


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com