Missed opportunities in 2014 were the over-arching theme for Salt Lake County Democrats as they met at Cottonwood High School Saturday for their annual convention.
Utah's minority party is still licking their wounds from the 2014 elections. That's understandable after the party had three legislative seats they thought they had won on election night ripped away from them after absentee and vote-by-mail ballots were counted.
"We had a tough November, and we had some difficult defeats," said Salt Lake County Council member Jenny Wilson. "I know bright days are ahead. We are going to win those three legislative seats back, plus there are many other seats we can win with hard work and organization."
County District Attorney Sim Gill pushed back against the prevailing thought that Utah is a Republican state where it's hard to get Democrats elected.
"The state of the Salt Lake County government is strong because of the Democrats you helped get elected," he said. "There was a lot of apathy in the last election cycle. In 2016, we can do better, and we must do better. Truth, justice and equality are not mere words."
State party chair Peter Corroon said organizing will be crucial for Democrats in 2016 if they hope to start making inroads on increasing their numbers. He pointed specifically to a tactic that Republicans have used to their advantage over the last few election cycles – mail-in and absentee ballots.
"2016 will be different than 2014," said Corroon. "Voter turnout in some districts will be 55-60% higher than it was in the last election. We will use vote-by-mail to take back those districts. Help us spread the word."
If any part of Utah can be called a Democratic stronghold, it's Salt Lake County. All but one of their members in the legislature hail from Salt Lake County. Their numbers on the Hill are near historic lows, but they do control the Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County mayor, county clerk, and district attorney offices. If Democrats are going to start to rebuild politically, it's going to have to start in Salt Lake County.
To that end, Salt Lake Democrats elected Claire Collard to point the way forward for them as their chair for the next two years. She beat Quang Dang in the race by a mere five votes. Collard previously lost her bid for a spot in the Utah Senate to Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City.
"There are so many misconceptions about being a Democrat in Utah," said Collard. "People tell me that the easiest way to win in Utah is to run as a Republican. Hell no! We are Democrats, and we need to be proud of who we are."