CEDAR CITY – With about 75 people in the audience, attendance at the Iron County Democratic Convention Saturday night was a huge contrast from the previous week when nearly 800 voters reportedly turned out for the caucus and presidential preference election.
Still, the overwhelming response at the caucus on March 22 allowed voters Saturday to have the chance to approve 29 names as state delegates at the Utah Democratic Convention slated for April 23. Last year the approved list included only about three or four delegates, said Iron County Chair George Loosely.
Among other political business, the delegates will vote in Salt Lake City for the candidate who will take on incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert.
Vaughn Cook and Mike Weinholtz are contending against each other for the party’s nomination in that race.
Both candidates talked at the convention about issues affecting Southern Utahns, specifically focusing on the transfer of public lands.
The legislature recently approved $14 million to fund a potential lawsuit against the federal government that if won, would force them to turn over federally managed lands. Weinholtz called it a waste of money.
“The lawsuit is morally bankrupt and fiscally irresponsible. Our own states’ attorneys have told us we have very little chance to win the lawsuit and yet the Legislature shopped around until they found a law firm that would give them the answer they needed,” Weiholtz said. “The people of Utah don’t want a lawsuit that only benefits real estate developers and energy companies.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Cook said he would never spend $14 million on a lawsuit where the outcome is so uncertain. He also felt the future would be better served by using the land for parks and recreation.
“My feeling is if we look down the road 150 years, is it going to be more beneficial if we drill oil on that land, or if we preserve it for parks and recreation for the long term,” Cook said. “I would like my grandkids to be able to use that land someday too.”
Charlene Albarran, who is challenging congressional incumbent U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, spoke about the importance of education and higher pay for women and teachers.
Resounding a message similar to that of her Democratic counterpart presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Albarran called for “equal pay for equal work.”
“This needs to stop, equal pay for equal work needs to be addressed in this state, and I am willing to do just that,” she said.
Jonathan Swinton is challenging U.S. Sen. Mike Lee for a congressional seat. While he did not spend a long time addressing the crowd, he did make his stance on immigration issues clear.
Swinton introduced his adopted sons from China and Taiwan saying he was surprised how difficult it is for people to immigrate legally to this country.
“This country was founded on immigration. People decide to come into this country illegally because we make it so hard to get in legally,” he said. “If we removed some of those obstacles and made it easier to become a citizen then there would not be such a huge rush of immigrants trying to enter illegally.”
Scott Truman also addressed the crowd of Democrats.
Truman officially declared his candidacy Friday, throwing his hat in the race to fill the commission seat recently vacated by former Iron County Commissioner Dave Miller.
Truman said he was asked to run by several people in the community who wanted change but told them he had to run as a Democrat.
“I says, ‘You know, I’m really quite comfortable being a Democrat and if you’ll support me, I will sign up to run for county commissioner as a Democrat and see if we can’t bring some sense to Iron County politics and give people a choice beyond one person,’” he said about talking to his supporters who asked him to run.
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