There may well be more Democrats in Utah this year. Republican leaders shouldn't worry, however. They won't be the voting kind. They'll be the tourist kind.
Pat Shea, former Utah Democratic chairman and chairman of the state's delegation to the Democratic National Convention, has a plan no one has tried before:"We're going to sell Utah to the convention. We're not going to just sit there and hear speeches and then vote. We're going to encourage delegates to visit Utah, giving away free trips to get them here."
Shea will turn the Utah delegates into promoters. He'll run a drawing daily on the floor of the huge Omni to give delegates from other states free trips to the Beehive state.
"The response from our business community is fantastic," Shea said.
So far, Shea has lined up six free river trips for two, worth $800 per duo; eight ski trips for two, worth $300 each; and eight nights of free hotel lodging, worth $150 each. He hopes for more last-minute contributions before he and the rest of the delegation flies to Atlanta Sunday morning.
"We also have 50 coupons for free six packs of Wasatch Ale, but they are only redeemable in person, so you have to visit Park City to get it," he said.
Each day, before the convention starts, Utah delegates will visit other state delegations and ask members to fill out address cards. The cards will be placed in a barrel and the winners drawn out. The cards will be kept and given to the Utah Travel Council, which will contact the delegates later with information about visiting Utah.
"I believe we'll give the council 1,500 people who have some interest in coming to Utah, or they wouldn't have filled out a card to win a trip here. The card will list Utah sites of interest, and the delegate will check where they might want to go. That way, the council can target the visitor with information on those areas or activities," Shea said.
In addition, Shea will set up two video player/TVs at the rear of the delegation's seating area - which is next to the major walkway on the convention floor. Short videos on Utah will be played for passers-by.
"I imagine thousands of delegates will walk past. If they're bored with what's happening at the convention, they will watch part of the video."
Finally, Shea said the 14-page insert that ran this year in the travel publication Sunset Magazine will be passed out to the convention's 4,162 delegates via their official delegate packet.
"I'll consider the convention a success for Utah if our delegates come back more tired than they arrived. I want us to work for Utah down there. And I issue a challenge to the Republican delegates who go to their convention in August in New Orleans: Come back with more than 1,500 names of people who may visit Utah and spend money here."
Shea said to his knowledge no other delegation at any convention has held drawings or gathered delegates' names for solicitation as visitors.
"To me, this shows the dynamic new leadership exemplified by Ted Wilson and other Utah Democrats. Let's get going again. Let's get past this boredom of the last four years," he said with a slightly partisan air.