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Obama has his Utah backers, too

Published September 22, 2012 10:54 pm

Politics • Democrats who are stumping for the president say his re-election is important.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • While Utah has its fair share of people deeply involved in trying to elect Mitt Romney, there are also a few Utahns who are doing their best to give President Barack Obama another term.

Topping that list is Lily Eskelsen, a former congressional candidate from Utah who is now vice president of the National Education Association. Eskelsen, who taught elementary school in Utah and served as president of the Utah Education Association, is traveling the country to rally teachers to support Obama's re-election.

"From preschool to grad school, this president has stepped up for kids, for families and for education," Eskelsen says.

The NEA has launched "Educators for Obama," and Eskelsen says with three million members, the group can have a big voice in this year's race.

"We're always a player in this because we're teachers and what we love to do is give information," Eskelsen says. "I'm going out and reminding our members that they have an incredible influence.

"If they know 50 people, 70 people, 100 people that sit next to them in church or that are at the family reunion or neighbors at the back fence, those can actually be as powerful a connection as any 30-second nasty ad that some politician is going to use on the broadcast news."

Eskelsen, a Democrat who lost her bid to unseat then-Rep. Merrill Cook, pitches Obama as the candidate who has put education first by saving teacher jobs with the stimulus act, doubling Pell grants and removing the bankers from the federal student loan programs.

On the other side, Eskelsen says Romney has said some frightening things about education, including his one-time comment that class size doesn't matter.

"It's one thing to say, 'Let Detroit fail.' He was saying, 'Let public education fail,' " Eskelsen said.

Wayne Holland, the former head of the Utah Democratic Party, is now working in neighboring Colorado to promote Obama as a representative of labor unions.

"The Rocky Mountain region has become fertile ground for Democrats at all levels," Holland said in taking on the job last year. "I am convinced that the higher voter turnout surrounding a presidential campaign will have a positive impact on Democrats both in Utah and throughout the western United States."

State Senate Democratic Leader Ross Romero has been out on the trail stumping for Obama in the swing state of Colorado, and he has been a fruitful fundraiser for the president.

Romero is the only Utahn — officially — on the Obama campaign's list of bundlers who have raised more than $50,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Romero, who lost his bid for the Democratic nomination for Salt Lake County mayor, has pulled in between $50,000 and $100,000, the center says.

tburr@sltrib.com