Loyal Utah Democrats were buzzing this week over Jim McConkie's ultimatum: Either the party gets behind his 2nd Congressional District race or he doesn't run.

Apparently McConkie, considered a moderate candidate, won't be running, since fellow Democrat Ross "Rocky" Anderson isn't getting out of the race and state party leaders won't try to force Anderson out.McConkie, in a five-page letter issued Monday, says the Utah Democratic Party has been taken hostage by special-interest groups, especially pro-choice and gay/lesbian rights groups.

McConkie says while those groups should be represented in the party, they shouldn't rule. Such groups are pushing moderate, reasonable Democrats from the party, he says.

House Minority Leader Frank Pignanelli was a McConkie supporter. He says a number of Democrats are mad at McConkie for saying those things - not because they are wrong but because they are right but embarrassing and better left unsaid.

Bobbie Coray, a Logan resident who ran against Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, in the 1st District in 1994, is also upset at McConkie.

But Coray says she's disturbed not because of McConkie's statements on special-interest groups but because he said he wasn't getting support from the party establishment, especially moderate Democrats.

"We all supported him," Coray told me. "I'm a moderate, active Mormon woman and I worked for him, made telephone calls, shared contributor lists. I can name dozens of moderate Democrats - party leaders - who worked for him."

Coray thinks McConkie just got cold feet and rationalized quitting by saying the party loyalists weren't supporting him while special-interest groups were getting behind Anderson. McConkie says Anderson is too "liberal" to win and his presence in a convention and primary fight too divisive.

But Pignanelli says McConkie touched a sensitive chord in his statement. "Look who is supporting (financially) the state party. You have to pay attention to them," Pignanelli says.

Two of the biggest Democratic supporters in Utah are Ian Cumming and his wife, Annette. Annette Cumming is a pro-choice advocate, has been for years. McConkie says he's a pro-life candidate. Anderson is pro-choice. The Cummings were staying neutral in the 2nd District race, party leaders say. Annette Cum-ming said she gave McConkie some money early in the race when he was the only candidate but distanced herself from him recently after some of his general comments concerned her.

"I don't know where (McConkie) was coming from with some of his comments" made Monday, said Annette Cumming. "I don't see groups controlling the party. Ian and I support any number of candidates - we're not one-issue people. We've supported (Rep.) Bill Orton (who is not pro-choice), even moderate Republicans in other states when we've felt the need. We are concerned with good reproductive health, not just the choice issue, but we and other Democrats are concerned with many other issues as well."

Still, cash does have an influence on how others perceive the wishes of "big-money" givers, several Democrats say. The 1994 Democratic Party financial filings (parties don't report in off-years like 1995) show that Ian and Annette Cumming and Ian's firm, Leucadia Inc., gave the state party $39,650 that year. While labor unions and the teacher associations may have given similar amounts, the clout of one family is clear in the minds of at least some Democratic leaders who I've spoken with.

Utah Democrats are definitely a minority party in this state. While the party may or may not be "captured" by special-interest groups, in politics often perception is as good as reality.

My guess is that Republican Party 2nd District candidates have news clips of McConkie's speech Monday and are waiting with bated breath for the general election to run the clips back to voters across the district.