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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Howard Dean, waves to the crowd at Salt Lake Community College, as they give him a standing ovation, Monday, August 19, 2013. The former Vermont governor and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, spoke at the Democratic Party's statewide voter registration drive in Taylorsville, in the Student Union Building at Salt Lake Community College, Taylorsville campus.
Dean urges Utah Democrats to tap unregistered voters
Politics » Tap the 307,000 unregistered Utahns, Dean urges.
First Published Aug 19 2013 09:55 pm • Last Updated Aug 20 2013 11:56 am

Taylorsville • Utah Democrats got a boost Monday from former presidential candidate Howard Dean, who spoke to about 300 supporters at Salt Lake Community College’s Taylorsville campus.

The night’s theme was how to turn red states blue, and Dean — governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2002 and Democratic National Committee chairman from February 2005 to January 2009 — served up a few ideas.

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But not once did he scream. Dean joked about the enthusiastic but unfortunate squeal he let loose in Iowa in 2004 that handed political opponents the opportunity to derail his energetic, grassroots campaign.

"I better not list any more states — but after this we’re going to Provo, to Ogden, to …" Dean grinned, evoking laughter from the audience. A list of states had preceded his fateful 2004 "yeee-ah" moment.

Dean then took a jab at Utah’s power structure.

"I don’t follow Utah politics that closely, but you may be looking for a new attorney general soon," Dean said. "If this is a state that believes in morality, this guy’s going to be toast sooner than you can possibly imagine."

He urged Utah Democrats to seek common ground with their neighbors, and to get busy registering people to vote.

As part of his 50-state campaign strategy, Dean had polled evangelicals, and said that results showed that abortion and gay marriage were the biggest concerns among those 55 and older, while evangelicals 35 and under cared most about poverty and climate change.

"Our children don’t really relish confrontation — they look at the things that they can agree on, not the things that divide them. And they get things done," Dean said.

Dean plugged the hotly contested Affordable Care Act, legislation that he believed was not progressive enough, but should now be given the chance to work.

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"It is possible that Obamacare will fundamentally change the nature of health insurance and health care in this country … not because its single-payer or government-run, but because the private sector for the first time can figure out how to change the incentives," Dean said.

He closed with a parting shot at Republican-backed voter ID laws that have passed in various forms in several states, Utah included.

"If you live in the greatest democracy on the face of the Earth, you ought to value people’s right to vote instead of trying to take it away," Dean said.

Matt Lyon, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, said that 307,000 people in Utah are not registered to vote — and their demographics indicate that two out of three would support a Democrat over a Republican.

The goal is to register 40,000 new voters over the next 18 months, said Jim Dabakis, who chairs the Utah Democrats.

"It’s a catastrophe that people do not participate" in the process, Dabakis told The Salt Lake Tribune, faulting state Republicans for their "insatiable appetite for redistricting."

Magna resident Danny Villa, a member of Laborers Local 295, attended "to see how I can do my part."

"Dean’s speech was pretty inspiring, I’m glad I came," Villa said. "I think it’s going to take a lot of time to change people’s views, but we can do it."

Dean also spoke Monday night at Ogden’s MTC Learning Park.


Twitter: @catmck

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