The race for Democratic Party state chairman is heating up - and only one person has even officially announced.
State delegates will meet June 24 to pick a new chairman, and intraparty fights have turned nasty.Marvin Davis, a Jesse Jackson delegate last year, has already announced. But Davis is considered a long shot by party insiders.
The real battle is between local attorney Peter Billings Jr., a longtime Democratic campaign worker, and South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis (no relation to Marvin Davis). Neither Billings nor Jim Davis have announced yet. Jim Davis couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday morning.
Billings says he's supported by former Gov. Scott M. Matheson; Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah; and a number of other older Democrats. Jim Davis is the pick of many younger party leaders, Democratic officials said.
While current chairman Randy Horiuchi won't officially say who his favorite is, he has told the Deseret News that if Jim Davis runs unopposed (he does't consider Marvin Davis a serious contender), he won't seek re-election.
But, Horiuchi says if Billings runs, "I'll have to consider my options" - meaning he could well challenge Billings.
Billings says he'll probably announce his intentions this weekend. "But I'm leaning now on running" for chairman. He's a man who doesn't like to be pushed, and he considers the latest flap with union leaders a push.
Here's what happened: Owens called Billings, a bankruptcy attorney, several weeks ago and asked him to meet with Eastern Airlines reservation workers, laid off because of the bitter airline strike - and talk about the company's bankruptcy. The reservation workers aren't union, and local union officials got mad at Owens and Billings for trying to help the non-union workers to get paid - Eastern's checks were bouncing.
"All I did was try to help my friend (Owens) who asked me to do some pro bono (free) legal work and advise these people - his constituents - on bankruptcy and how they could get paid. Union or non-union questions were never raised," Billings said. The Utah Chapter of the AFL-CIO has even prepared a brochure opposing Billings' candidacy - even though he has not formally announced he's even running.
Billings sees the unions' actions "as a shot across the bow," warning him not to run against Jim Davis or Horiuchi. "I have my supporters (including Matheson and Owens) and I'll go forward as I see fit."