ST. GOERGE — The Washington County Democratic Party of Utah held its annual convention Saturday afternoon in which several leadership positions were filled by new candidates as the party looks toward its state convention and the 2018 midterm election.
At the convention held on the Dixie State University Campus, outgoing chairperson Zachary Almaguer was replaced by newcomer Lynn Matthews and a new treasurer, Glenn Justice, was instated. Chuck Goode, previous democratic candidate for Utah State House of Representatives District 71, retained his position as secretary, and Lynne Cobb remained in place as vice-chair.
“The purpose of today’s event was to elect new leadership to a two year term at the county level and hear from our new candidates for state leadership at the state level and make sure we send out the largest contingent we can,” Almaguer said.
The convention was also forward-looking to the 2018 midterm election with contenders for the democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate present at the convention, including Misty Snow and Mitchell Vice.
“I sincerely believe that we have the passion, the skill and the power to turn this state blue again,” Vice said. “Utah values are Democratic values.”
Vice is seeking the Senate seat currently held by Orrin Hatch.
“As the Democrats show up next year, and I think there’s a reason for them to show up with an unpopular Republican president, … We can generate the excitement we need to get them to show up to send Chris Stewart back to Farmington, and that is what I intend to do,” Snow said.
Snow, who made headlines last year as the first transgender person nominated by a major political party to run for senate when she made a bid against incumbent Sen. Mike Lee, is looking to jump into the national race again for the democratic nomination to the U.S. House of Representatives seat currently occupied by Stewart.
Several other speakers said they were inspired to action after Donald Trump was elected president.
“Regardless of how the leadership falls in Washington County, Donald Trump has been our best recruiter and we were already a party on fire,” Almaguer said, “and now we’re just burning and we’re ready to go.”
Incoming chairperson Matthews said the impetus for her decision to join the party’s county leadership was the November 2016 U.S. general election.
“I kind of had a very visceral reaction to it,” she said of the election.
A high school teacher who grew up in the St. Goerge area, Matthews said she was compelled to keep her political convictions to herself in the majority politically conservative Southern Utah area.
She said she stayed mostly politically inactive during the presidency of Barack Obama, but that changed when Trump was elected.
Though she initially felt a sense of resignation, she said a disturbing moment involving her biracial daughter changed everything.
“She asked me, ‘Hey mom, what does ‘make America white again’ mean?’”
She had been watching television coverage of an image of swastikas spray painted on a wall with the words “Make America white again.”
“That was a terrible moment for me,” Matthews said. “That moment really brought me to an apex in my life where I need to be making a difference.”
She then contacted Almaguer and was fast-tracked to become the county party’s next chairperson.
“It feels exciting,” Matthews said of her election to the position. “I think there is a lot of opportunity to make a real change and a difference, and I’m so excited to be a part of that change, and that’s really the purpose of why I was here in the first place.”
“Goals wise, we are definitely going to be working to increase our communication,” Matthews said. “I think we’re severely lacking in that.”
That emphasis on better communication was already on display as several candidates for the Utah State Democratic Party executive committee were present to make their case as potential future party leaders.
The Utah Democratic Party will hold an election to fill those executive level positions at its annual convention June 17 at Weber State University in Ogden.
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