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Former Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is seeking election as chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.
Ex-Salt Lake County mayor and a BYU professor are in race to lead Utah Democratic Party

Jim Dabakis vacated the position earlier this month, citing health concerns.

First Published Apr 04 2014 05:26 pm • Last Updated Apr 23 2014 05:33 pm

It may be a thankless job, but the post of Utah Democratic Party chairman is attracting a couple of high-profile candidates: former Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Brigham Young University political scientist Richard Davis.

Both seek to replace Jim Dabakis, who stepped down earlier this month, citing health concerns.

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"I’m ready to get back into the fray," said Corroon ­— ­who was mayor from 2005 to 2013 and lost a race for governor against Gary Herbert in 2010. "I realize more and more that Utah needs to find balance, and a one-party system is not healthy."

"I have run a government and have run several campaigns," he said, adding that his experience on his gubernatorial campaign helped him know Democrats around the state, and he seeks "a 29-county plan to make sure the statewide party is giving counties the tools they need to be successful."

Corroon said his experience as mayor also helps him know how to reach out to Republicans and Mormons in the state.

"My philosophy is that the Democratic Party really does reflect the values of the state of Utah," he said. "We want a good education system, good jobs for our citizens, good air quality and water quality. And we want government to be limited in scope, but there when we need it."

Davis said that as a BYU professor, he also is well positioned to continue sounding a message from Dabakis "that you can be LDS and a Democrat. Well, I embody that. I think I can say to Utah voters who are LDS, ‘Look, it is possible to do. You don’t have to be non-LDS or liberal. Democrats have a big tent.’ "

Davis was chairman of the Utah County Democratic Party from 2007 through 2011, and said the party made significant gains then in that overwhelmingly Republican county even though it did not win any seats.

"We had four legislative candidates who received in the 40-percent range, and others in the high 30s" he said. Davis said the county party was able to raise a significant amount of money and recruited "stellar candidates, including a former university president, a former school superintendent and a former city council member" among others.

The last Democrat elected by Utah County voters was state Sen. Eldon Money, of Spanish Fork, who was defeated in his 1998 re-election bid.

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As a Utah County resident, Davis says he understands people who currently do not vote Democratic and has ideas about how to persuade them otherwise.

As a political science professor, "I study voters and try to figure out why they do what they do and why they think what they think."

The filing period for party chairman technically opens Monday and closes on Friday. Delegates to the state Democratic convention on April 26 will elect the new chairman.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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