TAYLORSVILLE — Utah Democrats called in a former governor and presidential candidate to rally their ranks to build the party through voter registration.
Nearly 50 people attended Howard Dean's presentation Monday at Salt Lake Community College, shooting to their feet and cheering heartily when Dean entered the room. They had been egged on by Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis, who encouraged them to remind Dean of his 2004 bid for the White House.
"I'm here to ask you to go out and to make this work," Dean told the small but energetic group. "We really need your help."
Matt Lyon, executive director of Utah Democratic Party, prefaced Dean's remarks with a rundown of how Democrats did in last year's elections.
The party saw some important victories, Lyon said, like Congressman Jim Matheson, D-Utah, holding on to his seat and Ben McAdams succeeding outgoing Democrat Peter Corroon as Salt Lake County mayor.
However, many local races were lost, some by only a few hundred votes, Lyon said.
Dean said he sees change on the horizon as a younger generation balks against partisan backbiting and old-school politics. He predicted young voters will usher in acceptance for same-sex couples and welcome immigrant families trying to make a new life in the U.S.
"These young people, our children, they don't really relish confrontation," Dean said. "They look at things that they can agree on, not things that divide them, and they get things done. They're going to change things."
Dean joined state leadership in urging Democrats to "stop being intimidated by stereotypes on both sides" and start talking to their friends and family about Democratic ideals and goals. This includes members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he said.
"If you look at teachings of the LDS, there is no reason that 98 percent of them should be voting Republican," Dean said, drawing another rousing round of applause. "They look out for the people who need to be looked out for. They are supporting each other. So what's not to like about this? Isn't this the same as what the Democratic Party does?"
Dean recounted another point Lyon made in his presentation, seeing an opportunity for growth with Latinos, who are more likely to vote Democrat. Lyon urged the group to help change the electorate by registering more voters rather than focusing on swaying people who already turn out to the polls.
"I don't know if it's going to take you two months, two years or 20 years to turn this state into a blue state, but I know it's never going to happen unless you take the step, and you've already made some very big steps," Dean said, citing the success Corroon, his cousin, had as Salt Lake County mayor after a long string of Republicans held the position.
Dean's remarks also included a jab at the current investigation into Utah Attorney General John Swallow, comments about potential benefits he sees in the Affordable Care Act and criticism of legislation in other states alleged to limit voter access to the polls.
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