Established leaders of Utah's Democratic Party prefer that chairman Randy Horiuchi not seek another term.
The flamboyant Horiuchi has become embroiled, perhaps unwillingly, in an argument over the chairmanship. He's told the Deseret News that he prefers not to seek re-election to an unprecedented third, two-year term. But he's also said that if local attorney Peter Billings Jr. is the only viable candidate he may run against him.Wednesday, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and former Gov. Calvin Rampton both said Horiuchi should step aside. They both favor Billings, a former aide to Owens and former U.S. Sen. Frank Moss.
Billings is opposed by AFL-CIO state leader Eddie Mayne. Mayne said, "I think our labor delegates (to the Democratic state convention) would support him (Horiuchi) if he ran again." Mayne said there are 346 labor union members who are Democratic delegates. The state convention is June 24, and Horiuchi estimates half of the 2,500 delegates will show up and vote on party officers.
Mayne said he really doesn't care who wins, a statement different than previous stands he's taken against Billings. He said his only objection to Billings is anger over how Owens "exploited" Eastern Airline workers "to showcase a political candidate."
Several weeks ago, Owens met with Eastern Airline reservation agents, who are non-union, and gave them advice on how they could get their paychecks and health benefits from the airline, which had just declared bankruptcy.
Owens asked Billings, a bankruptcy attorney, to talk to the employees and give advice for free. Billings did, and Mayne complained and announced his opposi tion to Billings seeking the party post. Billings hasn't yet declared his candidacy but told the Deseret News he's leaning in that direction and should have an announcement this weekend.
Rampton says organized labor filled a gap in Democratic Party ranks several years ago "when interest in the party waned. . . . Labor now exercises influence (in the party) disproportionate to its voting strength. This has to stop," Rampton warned. "And, yes, it's time for him (Horiuchi) to step aside."
Owens said Billings has the support of Rampton, former Gov. Scott M. Matheson and former Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson. "Randy has indicated he doesn't want to run again. That's the right decision. Peter will make a great chairman. He'd bring many new strengths to the job," Owens said.
If Horiuchi challenges Billings, Owens says, Mayne and other labor leaders will try to make it "a pro-labor candidate against another candidate, and that will be very, very hurtful to the party. . . . I hope Randy doesn't run. It will appear spiteful for him to do so," Owens said.
Horiuchi said Billings lacks experience in the party. Yet Billings recites a long list of candidates he's worked for, including Moss, Owens, Wilson, Matheson, Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis and others.
Horiuchi couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday morning. He was supporting South Salt Mayor Jim Davis for party chairman and said he wouldn't run if Davis did. But Tuesday afternoon Davis took himself out of the race.