Utah Democrats pick McAdams to face Love in November, add medical marijuana to party platform

Posted at 6:09 PM, Apr 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-28 23:59:59-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Democratic Party picked its nominees for congressional races and added medical marijuana to its official party platform.

The minority party's convention on Saturday was a relatively calm event when compared to their Republican counterparts. Where last week's Utah GOP convention dragged on for hours and was marked by infighting, Democrats adjourned early and tried to encourage a "big tent" philosophy. Still, delegates seemed divided on moderate Democrats versus more left-leaning, "progressive" Democrats.

Darlene McDonald (center) speaks to a Utah Democratic Party delegate at the state convention on April 28, 2018. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams captured 72% of the vote to win the Democratic nomination for Utah's 4th Congressional District. He faced a potential intra-party challenger in Darlene McDonald, who seemed to gain momentum at convention. Tom Taylor, who was also seeking the nomination, took the stage and immediately dropped out and urged his supporters to back McDonald, taking some by surprise.

"Darlene can bring out Millenials, she can bring out the ethnic minorities, she can build an army of women that will come out and win this race," he told the crowd.

But in the end, delegates overwhelmingly supported McAdams, who will face Congresswoman Mia Love in November.

"People are ready for a change," he told reporters after winning the nomination.

McAdams said he was bracing for what could be an ugly campaign. Love took a few swipes at him at last week's Utah GOP convention. The district is the one perceived to be the most "purple" in red state Utah.

"We’ll talk about her record, but I’m going to keep it positive and focused on the issues and her lack of leadership," McAdams said.

Democratic delegates were energized for a "blue tsunami," hoping to pick up some seats in the legislature and congress. Riding a wave of anti-Trump sentiment, Utah Democratic Party Chairwoman Daisy Thomas told FOX 13 she believed November ballot returns "will surprise some people."

"We are recruiting candidates left and right across the state. This is what we are doing, we are building our bench and planting the seeds for tomorrow," she said.

In Utah's 1st Congressional District, delegates sent Kurt Weiland and Lee Castillo into a primary, with the eventual nominee facing Congressman Rob Bishop. Shireen Ghorbani emerged with the 2nd Congressional District nomination to face Congressman Chris Stewart. James Singer won the nomination for 3rd Congressional District to face either Congressman John Curtis or Chris Herrod, who are in the GOP primary.

In the U.S. Senate race, Jenny Wilson captured 81% of the delegate vote, soundly beating Mitchell Vice, Larry Livingston and Jeff Dransfield to win the Democratic Party nomination. Her convention speech took plenty of swipes against Mitt Romney.

"Mitt Romney flips and flops more than a wet fish on a dry dock!" she said to laughter from the delegates.

Jenny Wilson speaks to Utah Democratic Party delegates on April 28, 2018. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Despite Romney being in a primary against Alpine Rep. Mike Kennedy, Wilson focused solely on the former GOP presidential candidate in her speech. Afterward, she said she'd wait to see how the GOP primary came out but still spoke as if Romney was the eventual nominee in the contest for retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch's seat. She criticized Romney for rebuking Trump and now appearing "cozy" with him.

"Will the real Mitt Romney stand up? The citizens of this state need some consistency and to know where people stand," she told FOX 13. "That’s one thing I’m offering is to give people a direct answer."

Delegates voted on a relatively modest political platform, designed to avoid intra-party fighting over hot-button social issues. However, in a series of floor amendments, they did add in support for the Equal Rights Amendment, a repeal of the death penalty and support for "whole plant medical marijuana."

"As a state party we should stand firm on this," Chairwoman Thomas told the convention crowd, speaking in support of it.

A ballot initiative on medical marijuana is likely to appear before voters in November.

"We’ve got support across the aisle. This is just re-affirming the Dems’ position and I’m happy to see it," said Christine Stenquist with Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) Utah.

After the convention adjourned, members of Utah Democratic Party leadership had to prepare to do some community service. They trolled the Utah GOP and challenged delegates to have a shorter convention marked by unity instead of division.

"For every hour our convention is shorter than the Republicans last week, the executive committee will donate an hour of community service," Thomas said. "We invite Republican leadership to join us as well."

The convention ended 3 1/2 hours earlier than last week's Republican event.