Utah Democratic Convention 2005

The 2005 Utah Democratic Convention took place Saturday at the Salt Palace. More than 1200 Democrats came together to elect new leadership for the next two years.

The fun started around 7:00 AM when the doors opened and was really hopping by 8:00 AM when the caucus meetings started. Two new caucuses were organized this year—the new Health Care Caucus and the revived Rural Caucus chaired by Rep. Brad King (D-Price). The Health Care Caucus was well attended and the Rural Caucus was completely full with some overflow. The other caucuses I visited—including Environmental, Stonewall, and Labor—were much more full than I remember at the last odd year convention.

Utah Dems Executive Director Arlen Bradshaw organized the caucuses and candidates with a coordinated schedule of speaking times. This was a great success compared to previous years where it was very hard to have a chance to speak to all the caucuses. The time for caucuses was extended for all the extra candidates, but the primary cause for improvements was the schedule. I heard a little grumbling, but I didn’t hear any complaints at all from people who had experienced the old uncoordinated system.

I dealt with the old system at the 2004 caucuses while I was running for Congress. Fairly often I would try to get a time to speak at a caucus and then get preempted by a candidate for a different office who went to the front of the line by being a member of the caucus or find that the time I arrived was reserved for caucus business. A few caucus chairs even had to track down candidates they wanted to hear from to fit them into available times crossing paths with representatives of the candidates trying to reserve time on a schedule.

Thanks to Arlen for improving the system.

Scott Matheson Jr. was visiting caucuses with Senator Hale and Robyn Matheson to thank everyone for supporting his run for governor last year. I asked Scott if he would have been able to remember what legislation he signed and was reassured that he would. Matheson was a class act on the campaign trail and we would be fortunate to have Scott offer to serve the people of Utah again, in any capacity.

Three fellows wearing T-shirts identifying themselves as members of the Southwest Council of Carpenters waited outside the Rural Caucus to confront chair candidate Wayne Holland as he emerged. The men were holding out the tag of a “Wayne Holland for Chair” T-shirt and surrounded Wayne to interrogate him about why his campaign shirts were manufactured in China. Wayne ignored the question and demanded the carpenters tell him why the United Brotherhood Of Carpenters And Joiners had endorsed Bush for President. Wayne recounted his work in Arizona for Kerry while the president of UBC promoted Bush in Arizona. The carpenters denied any endorsement of Bush and still wanted an explanation for the shirts.

The tension was rapidly building in the hallway. Then just when I expected to hear voices being raised, Wayne took a step forward. He said the T-shirts had been a mistake made by some young volunteers and stood his ground on his trouble with UBC national leadership. And the tension was dissolved. Wayne is a skilled union negotiator and seemed to know exactly how far he could go and still come back around to peace.

Most of the AFL-CIO was supporting Wayne Holland, who works for the Steelworkers, for party chair. The Teamsters were mostly behind Nancy Jane Woodside. The Southwest Council Of Carpenters, which withdrew from the AFL-CIO about five years ago, endorsed Jan Lovett for chair. And Kent Anderson, president of Communication Workers of America Local 7704 (AFL-CIO) endorsed Craig Axford. At the Labor Caucus, an AFL-CIO affair, there were some speakers on the floor who disparaged breakaway unions for lacking solidarity.

On a personal note, CWA and Local 37083 are the major national group working for people in my profession.

The main body of the convention came to order at 10 AM and Congressman Jim Matheson (D-UT) soon gave his congressional report. Jim was fiery and the crowd appreciated it. He recounted the many ways Republicans are betraying Utahns by promoting a new round of Nuclear Testing and underfunding Education. Then he exhorted us to organize in rural and suburban Utah and win in the places Republicans are hurting Utah and elect more Democrats for him to work with. There were no open dissenters as at last year’s convention.

Incumbent Vice-chair Nancy Jane Woodside invited the National Rifle Association to set up a booth at the state convention for the first time in my memory. I enjoyed talking to Brian Judy of the NRA about Democratic lawmakers in the Alaska Legislature who sponsored the law that liberalized the concealed carry statutes in the Last Frontier. I heard afterward that Janalee Tobias had been there too, but I missed her.

The Wayne Holland booth had a fantastic pencil drawing, about four feet square,
elephant with horseshoes on forehead
showing what we’d like to see in November of 2006.

The Jan Lovett campaign has been committed to a plan called “A Blueprint For The So-Called Red States” by Dow Patten. It’s an outrageously ambitious organizing plan and it would be interesting to see Jan and her band of relative newcomers try to implement it.

Vik Arnold from UEA told me about fighting for money for our school kids in Utah at the legislature. The Republicans wanted to pour money into roads to replace Centennial Highway Fund money cut in previous years, but refused to start putting money back into education. Republicans think that once you start investing enough money to do right by our kids, they will just expect adequate resources every year. Republicans don’t want to commit to supporting our schools next year or the year after that. Though disappointed over funding, Vik was pleased to have beaten the big tuition tax credits bill.

Each of the candidates for state party office spoke to the convention. Highlights included the very first speech—Dow Patten’s energetic nomination for Leon Johnson—the endorsement video with most of the party’s past and present notables for Wayne Holland, the Jan Lovett volunteer corps showing their numbers lining the walls of the room, and crowd response to Craig Axford’s demand that “a party must stand for something.”

Before the speeches were over, hundreds of delegates were already lined up to vote. Next convention, we should find a way not to reward the delegates who skip the last few speeches with the best prime places in line. Delegates have a responsibility, whenever possible, to consider each of the candidates before voting.

The line to vote assembled down most of the length of the Salt Palace. Voting went on for most of an hour and then another hour of counting revealed that we needed a second ballot. Delegates lined up for another vote without knowing who would still be on the ballot in the chair’s and vice-chair’s races. Two candidates for vice chair (including the eventual winner) were parading down the assembled line and declaring their mutual support on the second ballot if either one of them were on it.

Several hundred delegates had already left when we discovered which candidates survived to the second ballot. The chair’s race would be between Wayne Holland and Jan Lovett and the vice chair’s between Rob Miller and Josh Ewing. Nancy Jane Woodside stepped up to endorse Jan Lovett and other endorsements followed. Craig Axford and Tracy van Wagoner endorsed Wayne Holland. Laura Bonham endorsed Rob Miller.

When the final results were announced just after 4:00 PM, it was Party Chair Wayne Holland by 25 votes out of 700 and Vice Chair Rob Miller by 18 votes.

The multiple hours of vote counting and the hundreds of delegates who left between ballots indicate that it’s time for us to adopt instant runoff voting as the Republicans have. The new party officers should take the lead in making the change.

The new Utah State Democratic Party Officers are,

Chair, Wayne Holland
Vice Chair, Rob Miller
Secretary, Marco Xavier Hermosillo
Treasurer, Robert Jurek

We kept some geographic diversity on the executive committee with Jurek from Weber County and Miller from Davis County.

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