WASHINGTON CITY — They may be the political underdogs in Southern Utah, but the number of members of the Democratic Party in Washington County is growing.
Dozens of party members showed up for the 2018 Washington County Democratic Convention Saturday afternoon at the Washington City Community Center to hear from state and congressional candidates in the general election, vote on bylaws and select delegates for the state convention.
The convention began by highlighting the work of individuals in the Southern Utah community working toward party goals and causes, such as LGBT rights, economic justice, securing social security and Medicare for future generations, immigration and grassroots involvement.
“For me, the Democratic Party paints a picture of the future that I want for myself and the people that I love, and I’m guessing that since you’re all here today, I’m guessing you feel the same way,” Ivins City Councilwoman Mariah Elliot said.
Inclusivity was the theme of the gathering, with Elliot speaking on women’s issues, U.S. Air Force Veteran Del Polad addressing issues facing seniors, Rockville Town Councilwoman Megan Honer-Orton talking about helping immigrants, Dixie State University student Cody Tolbert speaking on youth and the Southern Utah economy and Randy Thomson of Youth Advocates of Southern Utah speaking on LGBT issues.
“I’m convinced the Democratic Party is the party for minority rights and LGBTQ rights,” Thomson said.
“The forces against us are as strong as ever, from the anti-LGBT policies from GOP-led states, to the Trump administration excluding transgenders from serving in the military,” Thomson said. “So, we shall continue this fight, and I know the Democratic Party will be on the forefront of that.”
State Legislature candidates
Two candidates running for seats representing Southern Utah House and Senate districts in the state Legislature talked about their platform and the importance of gaining representation for Democratic Party voters in the region.
Chuck Goode, who also serves as chair for the Washington County Democratic Party, is challenging incumbent Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, in Utah House District 71.
“There are people dying because they can’t get medical tests or health care,” Goode said. “It’s not a political issue at all, it’s a humane issue. Politics is not even about money. Politics is about improving people’s lives.”
He said that if elected, he would focus on marginalized groups, such as people who identify as LGBT, women and young people.
“These are the groups that I support, and if you give me a chance, I would listen to you and be a voice there unlike the people that are there now that aren’t representing us at all.”
Mark Chambers, who has a long history of political involvement at the local level in Southern Utah, is challenging incumbent Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, in Utah Senate District 28.
Speaking about issues facing Southern Utah, Chambers said he believes federal lands should not be transferred to the state and stressed the importance of access to mental health care in rural areas. He also encouraged the audience members to “come out” and make their Democratic views known.
“Let your views be known. We are not that far apart when you talk to people,” Chambers said. “Our voices aren’t at the table, we need to get our voices at the table, and what we need to do is get our voices heard to our loved ones and to our neighbors.”
Four candidates for seats representing Utah in the U.S. House and Senate were also present or represented at the gathering.
Mitchell Vice is running for the Senate seat currently occupied by retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch.
“I am the progressive, working class candidate running for the United States Senate,” Vice said.
Running on the slogan of “Every American Thriving,” Vice said he stands for Medicare for all, economic justice through livable wages, protecting the right to unionize and political finance reform.
“I’m inspired by people in action,” he said. “It’s one thing to hope for change, it’s another thing to dream and take action. That’s where progress comes from.”
Retired Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson was present representing his daughter, Jenny Wilson, who is also running for Senate on the Democratic ticket.
Ted Wilson said his daughter is running on a platform of inclusion that promotes equality, including LGBT rights, health care and economic opportunity.
Two candidates vying for the House seat currently occupied by Rep. Chris Stewart also made a case for their candidacy. They were Randy Hopkins and Shireen Ghorbani.
Hopkins said he supports a “Medicare for all” solution to health care and is passionate about issues surrounding immigrants.
“It is immoral, it’s wrong, it’s un-American to have a deportation hysteria and start separating families and moving them out of this country,” he said. “I would say bring them out of the shadows, give them legal social security numbers, let them stay here legally.”
Ghorbani said she thinks the seat is winnable by a Democratic candidate.
“This year, it is within striking distance,” she said. “The Republican Party no longer stands for family values or families. We know that they’re not on the side of working people … We know there are people who are left out and left behind, and I will be making that argument in every corner of this district.”
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