DRAPER — While national Democratic leaders made campaign speeches on the big stage in North Carolina on Wednesday, LaVonne Maloney opened her spacious yard to state and local candidates to make pitches of their own.
Maloney scattered booths in an around her trees and shrubs for 23 Democratic office seekers and anyone who wanted to chat with them. She described it as a farmers market or country fair where voters could go shopping for candidates.
"I hope they get that it's 60-plus days to the election. It's time to actually get involved," said Maloney, wearing a black Obama for Utah T-shirt.
Though the turnout wasn't overwhelming, about 70 people had signed in half way through the three hour event. And not all of the invited candidates attended, but most sent representatives.
"For Draper, a good turnout," said Amir Haskic, seated at the sign-in table.
Because most residents are Republicans?
Not most, he replied, all.
But as Salt Lake County mayor candidate Ben McAdams says, "We're changing that."
Still, someone in a passing car shouted "Go, Romney" at one point during the evening.
"Boo," came the retort. "Go, Obama."
Tooele resident Keith Brown attended the event because he said he was anxious to learn more about the candidates. He said he has made up his mind in some races, but not others.
"I typically don't vote for a party," he said. Brown, a carpenters union representative, said he leans toward candidates who support issues of concern to him such as education, building trades and jobs.
"I'm behind anybody that supports teachers," he said. "I think education is the backbone of our society."
McAdams, a state senator, said he's finding that voters are more interested in the person than the party.
"I think people are tired of partisan bickering. It's time to elect leaders who will reach across party lines and deliver results," he said.
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, conceded it's difficult to turn Utahns toward the Democratic Party.
"I think the main point we're trying to make this election cycle is that it's Utah Democrats who are more in line with moderate Utahns," he said, naming Rep. Jim Matheson, U.S. Senate candidate Scott Howell and gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke and himself as examples of that.
"I think the best thing we can do is just ask people to look at who we are and what we've done with our lives because actions speak a lot louder than words," Smith said. "I think if you didn't have party labels, it would be a lot easier to get people to look at the actual experience and credentials."
Several people at the event — voters and candidates — credited the LDS Dems Caucus with changing the perception of the party. They say there are Democratic issues that are well in line with the values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"That has allowed LDS members here to realize that it's OK to be a Democrat, that it's OK to be on the other side of whatever their neighbors expect them to be," Maloney said.
"They used to call the GOP the big tent. I call the Democratic Party the open tent. It's open to everyone. I think the majority are actually very fiscally conservative. Nobody wants more government than we need. We want government that is necessary."
Howell did not attend the event because he was at the Democratic National Convention to participate in a panel discussion and speak at a national meeting of LDS Democrats.
"Be thou not ashamed of our party. We are who we are. We are the ones who will change the face of this country," he told about 200 people at the Charlotte, N.C., gathering.
Howell said Democrats take an active role in families, communities and the country because when they are serving others, they are serving their maker.
“I have found a place where my value system intersects with public policy," he said. "My faith and political ideology are intertwined because the principles and values sacred and personal to me are also the values of the party. In essence, I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company