Derek Kitchen: Utah Democrats need to become a true opposition party

If Utah’s Democrats won’t invest in themselves, who will?

(Briana Scroggins | Special to The Tribune) The Utah Democratic convention held at Cottonwood High School in Murray on Saturday, April 23, 2022.

This past weekend, the Utah Democratic Party decided not to nominate a Democrat for this year’s U.S. Senate election. Instead, a majority of the delegates believe that an independent candidate, Evan McMullin, has a better chance to beat Sen. Mike Lee this November. Much ink will be spilled, air time filled, and hands wrung. Earnestly, I hope McMullin wins.

But I am not here to write about this. I am here to talk about the Utah State School Board races, in which nearly half of the conservative candidates are running unopposed.

I am here to talk about the Salt Lake County clerk’s race, where the choice is quite literally between a qualified, common sense public servant or a “Stop the Steal” supporter who wants to dismantle fair election laws.

I’m here to talk about the fact that Democrats are only running in 56% of the state House seats this year, all of which are up for re-election.

With delegates deciding to curb our own party, Democrats are right to feel disenfranchised. As a progressive, down-ballot Democratic candidate for the Utah Senate, it’s hard to see millions of dollars easily flow to the shiny new political figure in a race that is unlikely to be successful, while winnable races at every level go underfunded or even uncontested.

Frankly, I am tired of begging the Republican supermajority to pass the small number of good bills that their caucus has already vetted, edited and rubber stamped. I am tired of working to write common sense, community-led legislation that ends up watered down or tossed in the trash. I am tired of being told to make nice — to grin and bear it — so that, one day, I’ll be lucky enough to be a co-sponsor on Republican legislation. I am tired of being served scraps and being told that I should not only feel full, but that I should be grateful. I’m ready for the whole meal.

If we ever want to be a true opposition party and build Democratic power, we need to stop chasing shiny distractions and start focusing on doing the work of building a strong party. We must focus on building a bench of qualified candidates and a Democratic volunteer infrastructure so one day, in the near future, we can have a truly competitive U.S. Senate candidate instead of settling for someone who promises not to be as bad as what we have now.

I’m here for the long game. We can have a Utah where Democrats have and hold power. We can inspire voters by inviting them to join our coalition of what’s possible, instead of what isn’t. But we only get there by investing in and believing in each other.

If we don’t invest in ourselves, who will?

Utah state Sen. Derek Kitchen

Utah state Sen. Derek Kitchen, Salt Lake City, is a small business owner, community activist and champion for progressive values. He is a candidate for re-election in June 28 Democratic primary.

“Utah state Sen. Derek Kitchen, Salt Lake City, is a small business owner, community activist, and champion for progressive values. He is a candidate for re-election in the June 28th Democratic primary.”