Randy Horiuchi, now finishing his second two-year term as state Democratic chairman, is "seriously considering" seeking an unprecedented third term.
But he's facing opposition within the party from people who say new leadership is needed, that Horiuchi didn't attend properly to party needs this past year when he worked as a paid consultant on Ted Wilson's losing Democratic bid for governor, and who maintain that Horiuchi's job as a paid lobbyist at the Legislature severely conflicts with his top party post."I'm rethinking my position," Horiuchi said Tuesday. "I'm getting incredible pressure (to run again)."
Horiuchi said before November's election that he would probably resign after election day. If Wilson had won, Horiuchi was going to work for state government. But Wilson lost, and Horiuchi said a number of "important party people, some people who give the party a lot of money, asked me to stay through my term."
He then said he'd stay until June, when his term ends, but that he wouldn't run again. Now that has changed, also.
Horiuchi's reconsideration has spawned a movement to dump him. Rep. Max Young, D-Salt Lake, and other House Democrats, as well as some Democrats not holding office, think four years is enough.
"Yes, we need new leadership," said Young, who held a meeting of 20 or so loyal Democrats (which Horiuchi attended) last week to talk over prospects.
"The state party didn't run a good campaign last year. We who won our seats won in spite of the party, not because of it," said Young, who said Horiuchi was paying too much attention to the Wilson race - a race in which Wilson was up by 30 points in the polls to GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter early in the year and still lost to him.
There's another problem with Horiuchi, Young added: his legislative lobbying. Horiuchi's job is a free-lance lobbyist, and the clients he takes on have led to complaints from House and Senate Democrats before.
"You have a state chairman who is a paid lobbyist, and half the time he's pushing positions from across the aisle (Republican positions). He asks us for support. It is very difficult. You can't be a proper head of the Democratic Party with that kind of job, there's too much conflict of interest," said Young.
Horiuchi said he never takes on clients with clearly partisan issues and doesn't cause a problem for legislative Democrats.
Young said Rod Julander, a political science professor and husband of Rep. Paula Julander, D-Salt Lake, and local attorney Peter Billings Jr. are considering the top party post.
Also, Marvin Davis, a Jesse Jackson delegate to the Democratic National Convention, has announced he'll run for state Democratic chairman.
None of those people, not even Billings, excites Horiuchi.
"Peter is a great person, but he doesn't know the Hill (the Legislature) and he hasn't been close to the party for several years. I'd still rethink my position (if Billings ran)," Horiuchi said.
"My strength has always been the legislative races, and in this next election cycle (with no governor or U.S. Senate race) our emphasis will be on the legislative races," Horiuchi said.
Horiuchi's tenure has clearly been marked by controversy, real or created. Former GOP state chairman Craig Moody said for better or worse, Horiuchi has almost single-handedly changed the face of Utah politics. Horiuchi's aggressive debating style is credited with giving Utah Democrats new enthusiasm. When he delivered candidates and campaign programs that gained 13 seats in the Utah House in the 1986 election, Horiuchi was proclaimed a miracle worker.
But 1988 turned sour.
Horiuchi guaranteed that Wilson would win the governorship and took a personal hand in his campaign. Wilson lost. Horiuchi predicted that Democrats would gain 11 seats in the House in 1988 and win control. They gained only one House seat and lost a Senate seat. The party also lost its only seat on the Salt Lake County Commission. The only bright spots for Democrats were Rep. Wayne Owens' re-election to Congress and R. Paul Van Dam's attorney general victory, much less than was expected.