The Utah Democratic Party saw record turnout at this years’ caucus meetings, largely due to a wave of Bernie Sanders supporters. The enthusiasm for his candidacy also led several people to jump into local races to challenge incumbent Democratic state representatives. But it’s not easy turning enthusiasm into a viable campaign.
There were many new faces at the Salt Lake County Democratic convention on Saturday, including three people challenging long-time incumbents Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Carol Spackman Moss, and Lynn Hemingway. Darin Mann was one of those challengers. He says he was inspired to run against Chavez-Houck by the message of Bernie Sanders.
“We need new voices to really carry on the conversation in new ways, whereas when you’ve been in office for 16 years I really worry that you’re just perpetuating the same status quo that we really do not need,” he says.
Mann ultimately conceded the race before the vote. Meanwhile, fellow Sanders inspired candidates Aubrey Lucas and Alexis Hall, went on to lose by large majorities. These results led some people to the conclusion that the enthusiasm for Sander’s presidential campaign won’t have lasting impacts on local politics.
But Ashley Hoopes, disagrees. She was one of the delegates at the convention and said the results had more to do with the inexperience of the challengers.
“Just because there were people that were inspired to become a delegate by Bernie doesn’t necessarily translate that they’re going to vote for somebody that’s running as a first time candidate because they were inspired to run as a candidate because of Bernie,” she says.
Hoopes says the big picture isn’t that a couple of new candidates lost, but that a lot of new delegates have been brought into the process who can be of great service to the Democratic Party if they can figure out a way to keep them involved.