Utah Democrats emerged Saturday from their state convention leaving just one race to be decided in a primary election next month — the battle to become the party's nominee in House District 25.

The convention, held at the Salt Palace, dragged on an extra two hours as delegates attempted to choose among the five candidates to succeed Rep. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, who is running for the state Senate.

Christine Johnson ended up one vote shy of possibly avoiding a primary election against Josh Ewing. The pair were the top vote-getters in the first round of balloting among district delegates, defeating Joel Briscoe, Chris Ferguson and Jack Gray.

There is no way for her to seek a recount, state Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland said. "What we have now are two excellent candidates," Holland said. "The Democratic Party is in a no-lose situation."

Johnson was one of two openly gay candidates running for the Democratic nomination to the legislative seat, along with Ferguson. A mother, she is campaigning on "community values and compassionate leadership."

"I'm fighting for justice and equity for all our children," Johnson told delegates. A real estate agent, she said she is a unique candidate because of her past economic struggles, including a time when she couldn't afford to take her daughter to the doctor.

Ewing, a former spokesman for Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson as well as for the unsuccessful effort in 2004 to defeat an anti-gay rights amendment to the state constitution, said he would be the "most representative" of all the candidates.

"I'll be the person who listens to you," Ewing said in his speech to delegates, promising that if elected, he'd "work so hard you'll think I'm crazy" and that he would respect his diverse constituency.

Delegates did choose nominees Saturday in other legislative races that, like House District 25, couldn't be decided earlier because the district boundaries included parts of more than one county.

In Senate District 12, Sen. Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley, won enough delegate votes to avoid a primary election against a former Democratic state senator from the district, Millie Peterson. Goodfellow, a longtime state representative, was appointed to the seat in 2005.

Art Douglas, a farmer in Box Elder County, is the party's nominee in Senate District 17 and Roland Uresk, a lawyer from Roosevelt, was selected as Democratic candidate for Senate District 26. In House District 20, Beth Holbrook became the nominee.

About 3,000 people attended the convention, including most of the 2,500-plus statewide delegates. They heard from the party's pick for the top spots on the ticket, including from the state's lone Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson.

Matheson was nominated at the convention by a Republican, Julie Cawley Hanson, whose brother was killed in Iraq. She tearfully described how only Matheson was willing to help her and her family deal the the military bureaucracy.


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