Democrats at their state convention picked their major candidates Saturday with no surprises: Ted Wilson for governor, Brian Moss for U.S. Senate, Gunn McKay for 1st Congressional District and Rep. Wayne Owens for 2nd District.
Former Salt Lake County Attorney Paul Van Dam eliminated defense attorney L. Zane Gill to become the party's attorney general nominee with 75 percent of the vote (1,269-429).The only main primary race will be in the 3rd Congressional District, where neither Craig Oliver nor Bob Stringham could get 70 percent of the delegate vote, and so face each other in a Sept. 13 primary election. Stringham got 287 votes, or 57 percent, and Oliver got 218 votes, 43 percent.
Running unopposed, Salt Lake County Treasurer Arthur Monson was picked as the Democratic state treasurer nominee. Democrats also picked Bountiful certified public accountant Arthur J. Miller, 42, to fill the party's state auditor slot, which was left vacant when South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis, the only Democrat to file for the post, accepted Wilson's offer to be his lieutenant governor running mate.
Davis was also formally named the lieutenant governor candidate by the convention.
The attorney general's race was the most heated of the day, as Van Dam forces attempted to eliminate Gill from the race. But even though rumors raced between both camps, the bitterness seen two weeks ago in the Republican State Convention when Norm Bangerter and Merrill Cook forces clashed wasn't in evidence.
In fact, the Democratic convention was called a celebration of unity and hope by several speakers, and it appeared to be so. Said one delegate: "This is great. It's usually the Democrats who have fractious party fights that leave hard feelings. Now it's the Republicans. It's a good change for once."
The loudest cheers were saved for Wilson, who leads Gov. Norm Bangerter by 19 points in the polls. Wilson didn't guarantee a win in November, but said with all Democrats helping, he will usher in a new era of Democratic leadership for the state.
In ending his speech, Wilson said that when he meets with supporters again it will be at his January inaugural ceremonies in the Utah State Capitol.
Utah is 2-1 Republican, and Wilson and other Democratic candidates need the dissatisfied Republican and independent vote to win.
Bangerter and other Republicans have criticized Wilson lately for tax increases made during his 10 years as Salt Lake City mayor. Wilson countered with some statistics of his own, saying, "We cut Salt Lake City's real revenues 10.8 percent from 1980 to 1985. And the city lowered real per capita tax revenues from $303 in 1980 to $232 in 1985. That's my record. And we can do the same thing for the state."
Moss, who eliminated retired FBI agent Joe Cwik in the convention, 85 percent to 15 percent, told delegates, "We need something in Utah. We need optimism, not fear of failure. We need decent jobs, not long unemployment lines. We need honest in government, not excuses. We're gonna get something - a few changes around here."
He severely criticized his GOP opponent, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. When Hatch was chairman of a Senate committee and could have done something about Utah's high cancer rate that Moss believes was caused by open-air nuclear testing, "all he gave us was hot air.
"This year Utah will be set free of the shadow of Hatch, Bangerter and Haddow," said Moss (referring to ex-state legislator Mac Haddow, a former aide of Hatch's who has served time in federal prison for crimes committed while working for the Reagan administration).
McKay, who has slipped in the polls recently in his race against Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, turned up the heat a little bit. He accused Hansen of being a passive representative "who cares not much about the futures of your children" because he either missed votes or voted against education funding. He said Hansen's actions were "irresponsible and unacceptable" in missing votes "critical to Utah and your interests.
"I will bring jobs, industry and a strong defense (to the 1st District)," he said.
Both Oliver and Stringham said Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, is a useless congressman who has done nothing to help the economically depressed district. Oliver added that Republicans can no longer count on the Mormon vote. "For some reason, the Mormon Church has been associated with Republicans. That association has to change, and it is. For it is the Democrats who are addressing the problems of jobs and education, and I can tell you those are the concerns of the average Mormon family today. You can be a good Mormon and a good Democrat."
The harshest criticism, however, came from Gill and Van Dam about Republican Attorney General David Wilkinson. Gill said Wilkinson has paralyzed the attorney general's office, destroyed morale and given poor legal advice. Van Dam said Wilkinson has caused "a black hole of leadership" in the office.
"He made the worst political mistake an attorney general can make: he got caught with his pants down before the U.S. Supreme Court. He supported and defended a cable TV decency law that even his idol Judge Robert Bork couldn't have voted to uphold," Van Dam told the delighted delegates.
Here are the results of the Democratic convention voting. Uncontested candidates were nominated by acclamation:
Governor: Ted Wilson, 1,654 (97 percent); David E. Hewett, 44 (3 percent). Wilson is the nominee.
U.S. Senate: Brian Moss, 1,404 (85 percent); Joe Cwik, 257 (15 percent). Moss is the nominee.
Third Congressional District: Robert Stringham, 287 (57 percent); Craig Oliver, 218 (43 percent). The two face each other in a primary election.
Attorney general: Paul Van Dam, 1,269 (75 percent); L. Zane Gill, 429 (25 percent). Van Dam is the nominee.
National committeeman: Pat Shea, 878; Frank Moss, 513; Eldon Money, 305.
National committeewoman: Louise Henson, 1,258; Dee Ann Hansen, 412.