State Democratic Chair visits So. Utah for social discussion on education, equality

The attendees at the Talk and Tapas event pose for a photo, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

HURRICANE — Community members and political enthusiast gathered together Sunday for the Washington County Democratic Party’s monthly Talk and Tapas Progressive social event where members shared ideas and asked questions to the events special guest, Utah Democratic Party Chair Peter Corroon.

Washington County Democratic Party Secretary, Randy Thomson (center) speaks about what the members can do to build the party at the local level at the Talk and Tapas event, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
Washington County Democratic Party Secretary, Randy Thomson (center) speaks about what the members can do to build the party at the local level at the Talk and Tapas event, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

The group gathered at the home of group members Zach and Casey Almaguer at 5 p.m. The event kicked off with the group sharing wine, cheese, crackers, chips, cakes and other sweets while discussing what the topics for the night’s meeting could be.

Washington County Democratic Party Chair Della Lowe kicked off the official discussion by introducing Corroon to the group and allowing him to make an opening statement. In his statement, Corroon said that it is important for members of the Democratic Party to not become discouraged by the low number of supporters in the Southern Utah area and to keep pushing forward.

“People in Utah believe in the same values that we as Democrats believe in,” Corroon said. “Helping your neighbor, giving people a hand up when they need it, a strong education system, we want clean air and we believe … that everybody should have healthcare.”

Following his opening statement, Corroon asked Josie Valdez, the state party vice chair, to update the group on statistics and victories for the Democratic Party. Valdez said it was noteworthy to mention that in 2014, the Democratic Party was strong in showcasing it’s diversity through those choosing to run for office.

State Democratic Chair, Peter Corroon, enjoys a snack while speaking to other democratic party members at the Talk and Tapas event, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
State Democratic Chair, Peter Corroon, enjoys a snack while speaking to other Democratic Party members at the Talk and Tapas event, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

All four incumbent Latino candidates retained their seats, Valdez said. 2014 also saw the first African-American woman, Sandra Hollins, and the first Japanese-American woman, Jani Iwamoto, clinch spots in both the state House and Senate respectively.

About 40 percent of the Democratic candidates in Utah were also women, Valdez said.

“What this shows is that our women believe that we believe in them,” Valdez said. “They believe in the party, they believe in the values and they are willing to step forth into leadership positions and do it.”

In a discussion regarding equality, Lowe said that while the fight for equal treatment has seen leaps and bounds forward over the recent years, there is still much to be done.

There is no way religious principals should be forced on our civil laws, Lowe said. Individuals need to be able to have normal human rights, regardless of whether they consider themselves heterosexual, homosexual or any variant of the two.

In response, Corroon said from what he has seen traveling throughout the state and speaking with people, many Democrats seem to have varying opinions regarding same-sex marriage. However, there is a common agreement that the government should not be involved in peoples’ personal lives.

In another discussion, Lowe said that while Washington County may be a location ripe for business growth for hi-tech industries, the limiting education system might cause some families to be driven away.

Washington County Dichromatic Party Chair, Della Lowe, talks about the importance of local involvement at the Talk and Tapas event, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
Washington County Democrtic Party Chair, Della Lowe, talks about the importance of local involvement at the Talk and Tapas event, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

“No young, hi-tech family is going to move here if their children can’t get a good education,” Lowe said. “The schools are just not known for that.”

Because of this, Lowe said she believes that educational standards should continue to be set and that teachers and families need to encourage young children to continue their education into college.

Regarding the Common Core State Standards, Corroon said it is important for people to remember that multiple governors, including former Utah Governor Michael Leavitt, created the standards to start with.

“Common Core is not Washington D.C. telling people how to run their schools,” Corroon said. “Utahns came up with their own plan — called the Utah Core — and that’s what is being used right now. The whole thing is a misconception and misnomer.”

Much of the final discussion centered around what the Washington County Democrats could do to continue to grow and spread their message to the community, even though they are consistently outnumbered and out funded by the dominate Republican Party presence in Utah.

If high-ranking members and names from the state Democratic Party could make more trips down to the area for discussions and rallies, Lowe said she thinks the number of interested people in the area would grow.

There are people who share the same ideals as the party, she said, they are just unaware of the party’s presence in the area. The party members could also utilize flyers and brochures to widen their reach to the community.

State Democratic Party Vice Chair, Josie Valdez (left), talks politics with former democratic candidate for the Utah House of Representatives, Dorothy Engelman (right), at the Talk and Tapas event, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
State Democratic Party Vice Chair, Josie Valdez (left), talks politics with former Democratic candidate for the Utah House of Representatives, Dorothy Engelman (right), at the Talk and Tapas event, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

“Grassroots campaigns grow slowly,” Lowe said. “You don’t win the first time, and you don’t win the second time; but eventually, you win.”

While he usually makes it to the Southern Utah area only twice each year, Corroon said the great people, clean air and breathtaking scenery makes it a desirable place for anyone looking to have a relaxing time in a beautiful area.

Even though the Democratic Party’s presence in the Southern Utah area is small, Corroon said he hopes that these meetings will continue to draw people in. Even though the Utah Democratic Party leaders may seem far away, they will continue to look for ways to assist the smaller Washington County chapter.

With the new year in front of us, Corroon also said the people of Southern Utah can expect to see a strong push from the Democratic Party in support of educational changes and Medicaid expansion, including Gov. Gary Herbert’s proposed Healthy Utah Plan.

The Talk with Tapas event, hosted by the Washington County Democratic Party, is hosted on the second Sunday of each month at a different members house. Each member is encouraged to bring a different dish to share, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
The Talk with Tapas event, hosted by the Washington County Democratic Party, is hosted on the second Sunday of each month at a different member’s house. Each member is encouraged to bring a different dish to share, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 11, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

Traveling across the state and meeting with groups such as the Washington County Democrats and listening to their questions and concerns allows Corroon to get a better understanding of what the people want, he said

“The Democratic Party is not me, it’s each and every one of the people who consider themselves a democrat,” Corroon said. “Our party is going to grow only if the people on the local level are running things.”

The group hosts the Talk and Tapas event on the second Sunday of every month at a different location each time, Lowe said. Those who wish to attend can contact the Washington County Democrats Secretary, Randy Thomson, Lowe said. The group also meets up each Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. for breakfast at George’s Corner Restaurant, located at 2 West St. George Boulevard in St. George. The event is not only open to just Democrats; all party affiliations are invited to attend.

“It’s a tough place to be a Democrat but it’s not impossible,” Lowe said.

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