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Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Springmeyer (center) greets supporters at his headquarters Friday.

Bob Springmeyer and Josie Valdez, Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, have launched their campaign, saying they hope to establish an organization that will help them take power from Republicans for the first time since 1985.

During an open house Friday for their campaign headquarters at 11 E. 400 South, they said they want to create a "Utah for all Utahns" by involving those who have felt ignored or disregarded by the political process.

"Today is a stepping stone, but now we can go out and organize," Springmeyer said. "This is going to be a real race, we're in this to win, and I think it will be a good year for us."

Springmeyer and Valdez said they are planning to work with an "exiled party" and those committed to changing the political face of the state through the summer so they can create a change in Utah's political atmosphere.

They said they'll "do the knock," get their signs in yards and engage the public to get their message to the people. Valdez said they can energize communities with a multi-prong approach to communication: listening, speaking and making nontraditional voices heard.

While Springmeyer concedes that Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. beat him to the punch on efforts to normalize Utah's liquor laws, he said the current governor has at times failed to meet Utah's needs.

"He's a nice guy, but sometimes a governor needs to step up and represent the interests of all Utah," Springmeyer said.

Springmeyer said that Huntsman didn't represent Utah's needs when he failed to exercise his power to veto both the voucher and omnibus education bills that passed through the Legislature. A public vote doomed the voucher issue, and the education bill is facing litigation.

While people may like Huntsman, that shouldn't keep them from looking at areas that need attention, Valdez said.

"We want to give people a reason to look at change and its opportunities," she said.

Taking a cue from the Barack Obama Democratic presidential campaign, Springmeyer and Valdez have committed themselves to bring groups of people into the political process who have tended to stay silent. Using Obama's model of grass-roots organization, Valdez said, their campaign could truly get nontraditional players involved in politics.

"I see Bob and Josie as the underdogs against a popular governor in this race," said Carmelo Aviles, a resident of Murray who visited the open house. "Name recognition will be a challenge for them."

Aviles is supportive of the campaign because Valdez, who shares a Hispanic background, is on the ticket. His heritage is Puerto Rican, though Utah is his home. Utah is a diverse state, and Aviles said that it is often misrepresented through issues such as immigration and crime. He described Valdez as a role model based on her civic engagement and activism in the democratic process and expressed his belief that Springmeyer and Valdez are capable of meeting all Utahns' wants and needs.


E-mail: cnorlen@desnews.com