SALT LAKE CITY — Former President Bill Clinton highlighted his wife's vision to unite the country for Democratic donors and community leaders at two separate events Thursday.
At a private fundraiser in Park City, Clinton contrasted Democrat Hillary Clinton's strategy to work through issues that divide the nation with what he called Republican Donald Trump's "incendiary road rage" platform.
Clinton also said Utahns should be particularly offended by Trump's call to ban Muslims because of how the government treated Mormons in the 1800s, echoing Hillary Clinton's message in Deseret News op-ed piece this week.
"The things he said on behalf of Hillary would ring true to most Utahns," said one person after the fundraiser at the home of Barry and Amy Baker in the exclusive Glenwild community. The couple has hosted Clinton fundraisers before.
About 100 to 200 people, some of them from out of state, attended the event, which brought in a "few hundred thousand dollars," said Summit County Democratic Party Chairman Glenn Wright. The cost to attend was $1,000, $10,000 for VIP access, and around $33,000 to serve as a co-host.
Clinton had no scheduled public appearances while in Utah, but he stopped to shake hands with several dozen people as he left the One Utah Center in downtown Salt Lake City after meeting with community leaders.
Asked about the meeting, Clinton said it was "wonderful. It was great. I enjoyed it very much. Learned a lot."
The Clinton campaign asked prominent Salt Lake developer and Democrat Kem Gardner to invite 10 business leaders for a nonpartisan discussion about issues facing the nation.
Participants in the discussion that lasted about two hours included Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller; Natalie Gochnour, University of Utah business school associate dean; Keith McMullin, CEO of Deseret Management Corp.; and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
"And true to his reputation, he went about 45 minutes over time," McAdams, a Democrat, said of the meeting that included questions and answers both ways.
Utah leaders, most of whom McAdams said were Republicans, expressed concern to Clinton about partisanship at the national level and wanting to take the rancor out of political dialog.
McAdams, who attended both events, said Clinton talked about uniting the country as well.
"He said how sad it is to live in a world today where religious freedom and religion is being used as a wedge, and that we need to be in a place where we can come together regardless of our beliefs or background and look out for each other," McAdams said.
At the fundraiser, Clinton talked about education, caring for the poor, comprehensive immigration reform and strengthening international partnerships.
Wright called it an "optimistic and cautionary" speech.
"The phrase 'Make America Great Again' hearkens back to the '50s, when white males had it pretty good, but women and minorities definitely did not. Closing our borders to people and trade will not make us more prosperous, only less competitive," Wright quoted Clinton as saying.
Clinton said voters have a decision to make between fear, exclusion and isolation or a bright future created by working together to lift everyone. He concluded saying there is an opportunity to "write a new and greatest chapter in the American story," Wright said.
A lone Donald Trump supporter wearing a "Make America Great Again" cap stood outside the Park City neighborhood holding a sign reading, "Political correctness equals political corruption. Vote for Trump."
Park City resident Dave Novak said he came out "just to have some fun with Mr. Clinton, wave hello, welcome him to Park City."
Novak said he doesn't trust the Clintons.
"I think it's time for a change, and they don't represent change. They represent the status quo," he said.
Bill Clinton's trip to Utah came a day after Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed for the Deseret News in an unprecedented appeal to Mormon voters. Though the latest poll has Republican Donald Trump leading in Utah, Democrats have a chance to win the state for the first time in more than 50 years.
In the column, Clinton promises to defend religious freedom, saying she would carry out that "sacred" responsibility as president. She mentions the infamous 1838 Mormon extermination order, and invokes the names of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith and current President Thomas S. Monson. She also quotes Mitt Romney on Trump and cites Gov. Gary Herbert's willingness to welcome Syrian refugees to the state.
The Republican National Committee issued a statement Thursday about Bill Clinton's visit to Utah.
"Bill Clinton parachutes into town today as Hillary Clinton touts a third term of Barack Obama’s failed economic policies in Michigan. He will be hard-pressed to defend Hillary’s flawed vision of massive tax hikes, more Obamacare, and $2 trillion in new spending to Utah voters," committee spokeswoman Natalie Strom said.
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