SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Vince Rampton said he avoided following his father, the late Gov. Cal Rampton, into politics until now because he felt he couldn't live up to his reputation.
"Yes, I'm that Rampton," the soon-to-be 60-year-old attorney said Thursday at a press conference at state Democratic Party headquarters to announce he would be the running mate of the party's gubernatorial candidate, retired Army Maj. Gen. Peter Cooke.
"I've stayed away from politics with great trepidation for what, 35 years, because of the concern that I had of, 'You're not the man your father was.' Well, I'm not the man my father was. I'm not. I'm somebody else," Rampton said.
But he said felt a passion to serve at a time when the state "has become increasingly influenced by a very, very small minority" who don't speak for most Utahns but control the Republican Party.
"The great state of Utah has gone virtually silent in its political activity," Rampton said.
As a Mormon Democrat, Rampton said he has "lived in a kind of shadow world. It's been this terribly timid, 'I'm one. Are you one, too?' It's time for this to end," calling for an end to the "cynical assumption" of a connection between the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and conservative politics.
"Policy has got to be formed on a bedrock of moral principle. There's no question about that," Rampton said. "But it's not the function of the far right. And the far right is not the political wing of the LDS Church. It's just not true. So we welcome the Mormons."
The Utah State Democratic Party is already pushing to recruit more members of the LDS Church in the hopes of bettering its performance at the polls. Utah has not had a Democratic governor since the mid-1980s.
According to a recent poll, the Cooke-Rampton ticket will likely square off against GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Greg Bell in November, although Herbert faces intraparty opposition at Saturday's state GOP convention.
Cooke said he talked with a number of potential running mates, but had a "meeting of the souls" with Rampton. Cooke, whose only previous political experience is a congressional run in 1978, said newcomers are needed in the race.
"That's refreshing," he said.
When Rampton was introduced at the press conference, he looked out over the reporters and party officials gathered for the announcement and said, "This is such a trip. I'm sorry, but there is a sureal quality about this whole thing."
Just three weeks ago, he said, he was happy to be practicing law and spending time with his family. "We were great. We were doing fine. Then I got the call," he said, agreeing that "something clicked" at his meeting with Cooke.
Rampton may be a first-time candidate, but he was raised in a political family. His father was elected Utah governor in 1964 and served three terms.
He is a lawyer with the law firm of Jones Waldo Holbrook & McDonough, specializing in the area of real estate and general commercial trial practice, and holds a political science degree from the University of Utah and a law degree from Brigham Young University.
Rampton's wife, Janice, is a Republican, a difference she said she and her husband have handled "very respectfully." She said this year, she will vote Democratic in the governor's race.
"I believe in their message," she said. "It's very easy for me to do that."