Democratic activist and former party spokesman Jeff Bell said Thursday he would challenge party Chairman Wayne Holland for the state party's top spot, arguing that Democrats haven't been aggressive enough in spreading their message.
"The party's sitting still and if something sits still too long, it goes stagnant," said Bell, who was the party's communications director from 2005 to 2007. "If you're not going to set the tone and start the conversation ... and if you spend all your time playing defense, you're not moving forward."
Holland said he wasn't surprised that Bell would run, but was disappointed that Bell distorted the party's emphasis on patience into a message of defeatism.
"I expect Jeff to do bizarre things," Holland said. "I was warned about that. I didn't have a problem with him running. Him not being truthful, that's a whole other matter."
Let me put this in a sports metaphor so that Wayne can understand it:
"The Jazz not going to win this year. Or next year. Or the year after that. However, we won most of our road games, and a few home games. Yeah, we lost some games that we should have won, but we will stick with Carlos Boozer and CJ Miles in our starting lineup, and Jerry Sloan as our coach, because it will work someday."
That's a strategy that I'm willing to endorse.....NOT!
(Yes, that was a joke from the 1990's. Deal with it.)
Since Holland was elected party chairman in 2005 and re-elected without opposition two years ago, Democrats have made some modest inroads in the Utah Legislature and in Salt Lake County and developed its county parties with the help of the national party. The party also launched the Common Values Project to reach out to Mormon voters.
We've had a net gain of 4 legislators and in the past four years in Utah, and one Salt Lake County Council position. Wayne may call that modest, but I call it small. And, that's with vouchers, ethics, Buttars, soccer stadiums, and Obama thrown in.
And their outreach to Mormon voters didn't work. I have talked to many people, especially people who live in the targeted districts, who have never heard of the Common Values Project. I would think that, given the amount of money spent on it, the program would be continuing. But, like most things coming out of party HQ, I haven't heard much.
Moreover, I know of two separate attempts last year to create a faith caucus. One was designed to be an interfaith group, and the other was going to be more LDS-centric. Both were rebuffed by party leadership.
And, if you want to know about religious discrimination during candidate recruitment, just ask.
Bell said "I think the world of Wayne. ... I respect the hell out of him," but the party has been stuck in the past and been slow to embrace new technologies to help spread its message. He said the party spent its money on newspaper ads instead of using targeted cable advertising and Internet technologies to reach voters.
Bell said he has the skills to help advance that message. He does Internet media work for various organizations, including the group The High Road for Human Rights, which is led by former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.
"What they're doing is good but it's much less than needs to be done," he said.
Holland, however, said Bell was responsible for fashioning the party's message for two years and setting up the Democrat's online presence "and we went backward in the minds of a lot of people."
Holland said the party got numerous complaints about its Web site when Bell was running it and it is much better now.
We went backward? Yet this was the same web site that the party was using on election day 2008. In fact, it still listed a secretary and treasurer who had resigned and been replaced months earlier. This in spite of at least one web professional offering his services to build a new site for free last year. And, the prototype site was much better than the crap they got.
And, most of the web action we have seen from the Dems has come in the past 18 days, after they saw the momentum of the internet rolling against leadership.
Democrats will elect leaders June 20 during their organizing convention at Murray High School.