Some want to help end the war. Some want to change the direction of America. Some want to improve America's image abroad. Some want to help improve the economy.

These are among reasons that Utah's delegates to the Democratic National Convention say they want to help nominate Barack Obama for president. Delegates begin arriving today in Denver for the convention that begins Monday.

Wayne Holland, chairman of the delegation and chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, said, "Our party is excited about this national campaign to a degree I have not seen in all the years I have been involved, many decades now, in Utah politics."

The Utah group will have 28 delegates and four alternates.

A 29th delegate, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, is choosing to stay home to campaign and be on hand as a son begins the fourth grade.

Nine delegates are committed to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and the rest to Obama. A complete list of the delegation can be found at the graphic link above.

Still, Holland said he expects the convention "to bring the party together in a way I believe we have not seen ever in the past. We are committed to win this election in November."

Delegate Kathleen Snyder said one reason she became a delegate is Obama's "stand on ending the war." It's especially important to her because her son, Army Capt. Brian Freeman, a West Point graduate and national bobsled and skeleton team member, was killed in Iraq two years ago.

About the war, she said, "I think it's futile. It never should have been fought. It's the saddest thing in my life."

Delegate Kurt Bestor, a jazz composer who wrote such things as the theme to "Monday Night Football," said he became persuaded to support Obama while he was in Uganda on a safari and saw how people from other countries reacted when Obama's name came up in discussions.

"When I brought up Obama, the room just lit up," he said, adding others from around the world are excited about the possibility of his leadership. "That's when I became involved with Obama."

Of note, Snyder and Bestor will be followed by different film companies recording experiences of some delegates nationally. Snyder will also be on a panel presented in Denver by Progressive Democrats of America on the topic of "health care, not warfare."

Jordan Apollo Pazell is the third-youngest of all the convention delegates nationwide at age 18. He said health care is the issue he is most concerned about. "I know how hard it is for people to live without health care," he said.

While Pazell is Utah's youngest delegate, the oldest is, well, anyone's guess. Some were hesitant to say how old they are. The oldest actually admitted age belongs to Josie Valdez, an Obama delegate and the Democratic nominee for Utah's lieutenant governor, who says she is "a very young and energetic 60."

Among issues important to her, she said, are "women's right to choose" and immigration.

Delegate Carlos Vasquez is a father of six, and a teamster with United Parcel Service. "My No. 1 issue is working families in Utah," he said. He added he hopes Obama can help bring "the kind of jobs that can support families."

The delegation has 16 women and 16 men. Delegates' occupations include: composer, artist, attorney, salesman, retired teacher, labor union official, politicians (many of those), Realtor, physician, homemaker, lobbyist, postal worker, student (at Brigham Young University, no less) and law professor.

Among the politicians in the delegation are former U.S. Rep. Bill Orton, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon; Salt Lake County Council members Jenny Wilson and Jim Bradley; and state legislators Christine Johnson, Scott McCoy, Pat Jones, Ross Romero and Phil Riesen (who is likely better known as a former TV news anchor and the TV ad pitchman for John Paras Furniture.)

The BYU student in the delegation is Brian Spittler. Despite the school's ultraconservative reputation, he said, "We registered almost 1,200 students as Democrats (before the primary.) I think there has been a notion that somehow being LDS and a Democrat were mutually exclusive things. We are starting to see this idea crumble."

Delegate Millicent Lewis is an artist who also makes and sells political novelties, including "Barack Rocks" featuring Obama faces on tiny resin "rocks." She met Obama earlier this year in Nevada when she was wearing an Uncle Sam shoulder puppet she had made.

"Sen. Obama walked right up to me and complimented me on my work," she said. "I also made myself a whole new wardrobe for the convention, re-did my Uncle Sam puppet to make it lighter and made a second puppet for the event."

Holland said he believes Obama offers the change that Utahns want.

"We don't believe Utah wants four more years of what we've seen in the last eight years. We do believe that big oil has been running the White House, and that if John McCain is elected, that obviously is not going to change," he said.

Holland said this could also be the beginning of big change in the West. Democratic leaders in the eight Rocky Mountain states have formed a group called the Western Majority Project, and have said Democrats chose Denver for their convention because the West is in the middle of significant political realignment and has become a new, key battleground.

"The eight Western (Rocky Mountain) states are the most fertile ground for Democratic victories in the United States. We have seen in the eight past years the Rocky Mountain states go from zero Democratic governors to five Democratic governors," with big gains in their congressional delegations, Holland said.

He added that Obama is ahead in Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado — and in a dead heat in Montana. He said he sees such gains eventually happening in Utah.

"Utah and Idaho always seem to be a few cycles behind. They will follow. The pendulum will swing," he said.


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