Washington County Democratic Convention gives forum to candidates

ST. GEORGE — Candidates for Utah governor, the state Senate and House, and the U.S. Congress gathered at Tonaquint Intermediate School Saturday for the Washington County Democratic Convention.

Washington County Democratic Party Chairman Zachary Almaguer addresses the audience at the Washington County Democratic convention at the Tonaquint Intermediate School in St. George, Utah, April 2, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman
Washington County Democratic Party Chairman Zachary Almaguer addresses the audience at the Washington County Democratic convention at the Tonaquint Intermediate School in St. George, Utah, April 2, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman

Several dozen people were in attendance for the event.

Two candidates for governor — Vaughn R. Cook and Mike Weinholtz — were on hand, as were Congressional candidate Charlene Albarran, U.S. Senate candidate Jonathan Swinton, Utah Senate candidate Dorothy Engelman and Utah House candidate Chuck Goode.

Candidates each set up an information booth, which gave them the opportunity to speak to local Democrats.

Each candidate described a similar campaign focus with education, the environment, jobs, gender-equal pay and health care the dominant themes at the conference. Another common denominator was the desire to break the Republican super-majority currently holding the reigns of power in Utah.

Albarran said one of her highest aims would to be break the stalemate that has permeated government.

“In Congress today, we have found in general there’s a gridlock. There are Democrats and Republicans, they’re extreme, they don’t communicate, they vote separately and nothing gets done,” Albarran said. “I want to cross the aisle, cross the border, and negotiate it and get things done.”

Swinton said his experience as a marriage counselor would make him ideally suited for political office.

Senate Candidate Jonathan Swinton addresses the audience at the Washington County Democratic covention at Tonaquint Intermediate School in St. George, Utah, April 2, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Senate candidate Jonathan Swinton addresses the audience at the Washington County Democratic convention at Tonaquint Intermediate School in St. George, Utah, April 2, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

“I spend my days sitting across the room from people who cannot agree with one another, who have emotions that are all over the place, opinions that are all over the place,” Swinton said. “It’s almost always possible to help them come to some sort of an agreement. People in Washington have either forgotten that or they don’t know it. That’s why Washington needs a marriage counselor.”

Gubernatorial candidate Mike Weinholtz said his three decades in business gives him an advantage as a candidate. He noted his experience as a co-founder and former CEO of CHG Healthcare Services, which Weinholtz said has been listed as one of the best companies to work for seven years in a row.

“We actually put people before profits in the business, which is a unique approach to business,” Weinholtz said. “And I would like to put people before politics as governor, because right now too many of our politicians in the Republican super majority put politics before the people.”

Weinholtz is being challenged for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination by Vaughn R. Cook, who said his background in alternative medicine gives him a unique perspective for political office:

I think what I bring to the Governor’s office is a perspective because of my training in complementary and alternative medicine, a perspective of looking at problems and issues from a holistic point of view. So not focusing on just one solution or focusing on solutions coming from a direction you would anticipate but looking and respecting ideas that come from a variety of sources.

Utah Senate candidate Dorothy Engelman said the Utah Legislature needs more balance, both from a Democratic standpoint and as a female candidate.

Utah Senate candidate Dorothy Engelman discusses her candidacy at the Washington County Democratic covention at Tonaquint Intermediate School in St. George, Utah, April 2, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Utah Senate candidate Dorothy Engelman discusses her candidacy at the Washington County Democratic convention at Tonaquint Intermediate School in St. George, Utah, April 2, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

“We have one of the lowest percentage of women representatives in our Legislature of any place in the country,” Engelman said. “And we make up 52 percent of the population, and so I think that it’s very important to have a woman’s perspective. I don’t say that it’s better or worse, just different sometimes and I think that is very important.”

State Representative hopeful Chuck Goode said his main focus is on education. With his own background in software for the aerospace industry, Goode said he understands the future of education must utilize technology while still emphasizing a close relationship between students and teachers. He pointed out his own struggles with academics when, as a young child, he was unable to maintain good grades due to having dyslexia.

“I was straight F’s the first, second and third grade,” Goode said. “In the fourth grade, I had a wonderful woman take interest in me, take me aside and teach me how to memorize instead of trying to do phonetics, which I could never do. I memorized thousands of words that year, and I made straight A’s from the fifth grade to the 12th grade, thanks to this wonderful woman just taking an interest. That one-on-one relationship will change our kids, it’s what will change our future.”

Zachary Almaguer, chair for the Washington County Democratic Party, said he was pleased with the turnout, adding that the rise of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is one of the driving forces behind the increased participation among county Democrats.

“We had caucuses on March 22nd, probably the largest turnout we’ve seen in our caucus events,” Almaguer said. “Love him or hate him, Bernie’s bringing out a ton of voters we haven’t seen before, and that’s also invigorating Hillary’s base as well, because they realize it’s going to be a tight run. We had almost 3,000 voters come out, and I think by our turnout here in convention, which is about double what we’re used to seeing, by all accounts we’re surging ahead.”

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Email: dgilman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • Not_So_Much April 3, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Several dozen in attendance? What 36, 48 or something like that? Do you really think this area will turn into something like the places you dozens came from? I don’t think so.

  • Chuck April 4, 2016 at 11:02 am

    The Constitution was signed by only 39 people from 13 states. They changed the area quite a bit. The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56; that’s just a few dozen.

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