Ron Brown wanted to came back to Utah. He wanted to see the place where Wayne Owens "beat the odds" and Bill Orton won one of the

greatest upset victories in Democratic Party history last November.Brown is chairman of the National Democratic Party. And he's in Utah this weekend skiing with his family and attending the Legislative Ball, the main fund-raising event for the state party.

During the Reagan years, the West - especially Utah - belonged to the Republicans.

Utah is still a Republican state, 2-1 Republican, but Brown said Democratic gains in the Utah Legislature and congressional delegation aren't unique. "We've shown by significant victories in the West in 1989 and 1990, and in gubernatorial victories in the South in 1990, that the party is on the move."

Eighteen months before the 1988 presidential election, Democratic candidates were swarming over Iowa - home of the first presidential caucuses.

No one is in Iowa these days, and Brown said that's a good thing. "I'm not sad about it at all. Just the opposite. Presidential primary races are too long, too costly and too boring. People tend to think that 1988 was the norm. It wasn't. Remember, Jimmy Carter wasn't in Iowa this early before the 1976 election, and he was a complete unknown."

Brown expects some Democratic candidates to come public this summer, depending on events in the Persian Gulf war. He runs off a long list of potential candidates, including Mario Cuomo, Lloyd Bentsen, Albert Gore, Bill Clinton, Roy Romer, Richard Gephardt and Bob Kerrey. Others are out there as well, he said.

"It would be inappropriate, considering the war, for Democratic (presidential) candidates to be out campaigning now," said Brown. However, while the war may delay partisan presidential politics, it won't remove them. "There will be a campaign, and a campaign on issues. We Democrats will stress domestic, rather than foreign, policy."

The deficit and the lack of a national energy policy are issues Democratic leaders say will play well against President Bush - who, it is anticipated, will run for a second term.

The president's popularity isn't scaring away Democratic hopefuls. "There will be plenty, maybe too many, Democratic candidates for president," Brown believes.

Brown said those in Washington, D.C., are sometimes too cynical about the chances of Democratic candidates in Utah and other bastions of Republicanism. Orton, who soundly defeated Republican Karl Snow in the 3rd Congressional District - considered by some to be the most Republican district in America - was considered an outside shot by Washington insiders.

That strong showing, combined with Owens' victory over "the best the Republicans could put up" tells Brown that Utahns "approach their voting with independent minds and support those who stand up for what they believe in."

Utah Republicans have for years drooled with excitement over the national Democratic Party's platform, pointing to stands on pro-choice, gay rights and other "liberal" items as proof Utahns shouldn't vote for Democrats.

Brown said the national platform has moderated in recent years, and he plans a similar platform in 1992. "We don't want to bog down the platform with thick specific stands. In any case, I think platforms aren't as important in voting as once may have been the case. Voters look to the candidates, I believe."