Utah’s caucus of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied Democrats – and one of the largest Democratic caucuses in the state – met at the state convention on May 9 and 10 to examine the party’s platform, discuss caucus business and nominate delegates and political candidates for November’s election.
According to Nikki Boyer, Utah Stonewall Democrats Chair, this year’s caucus – and the convention itself – was a quiet, orderly event with few debates and no arguments.
“We conducted Stonewall business, confirmed our newly elected board and then the candidates came in for review,” she said.
Overall, Boyer estimates that her caucus endorsed 20-25 people, including some dual endorsements for the same position. These included Billie Gay Larson, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for Salt Lake County treasurer in 2006, and former Sen. Patrice Arent for national committeewoman and gay rights leader Mike Picardi for delegate. Arendt ultimately defeated Larson for the position.
Additionally, former Utah congressman Bill Orton lost his bid for national committeeman to Salt Lake City Councilman Joe Hatch. Previously, openly gay Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, had publicly questioned Orton’s suitability for the position after Orton endorsed the Republican candidate running against McCoy in 2006.
The group also stayed in line with party leadership by picking Rob Springmeyer as its choice for Democratic gubernatorial candidate. Springmeyer easily beat out challengers Matt Frandsen and Monty Nafoosi and will square off against Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. in November. The group also endorsed John Rendell, who is challenging anti-gay Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, for his District 10 seat.
“He got a lively cheer when the caucus found out who he was running against,” said Boyer.
What excited Boyer most, however, was the number of people who participated in the Stonewall caucus this year. At the weekend’s Jefferson Jackson dinner, she said there were more Stonewall Democrats at the caucus’ table than there were seats.
Perhaps because there is now more than one chapter of the Utah Stonewall Democrats. In addition to the Southern Utah chapter founded last year a new chapter for Stonewall Democrats in Davis, Cache and other Northern Utah counties, the Davis County North chapter, is now forming.
“We have a large area and some of the counties only have one or two [delegates] in them if that, so getting these smaller counties organized is a big job,” Boyer explained. “Just finding out who’s there is a job. … It’s kind of hard to organize a state this large and as sparsely populated.”
Although caucuses can vote to change their bylaws at each convention, Boyer said no changes were made this year. The last big change came in 2006 when members voted to increase their number of board members from six to 19.