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Will West win Demo spotlight?

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Leah Daughtry

Leah Daughtry

The Democratic National Convention in Denver this August will shine a spotlight on Utah and the rest of the Rocky Mountain West, the CEO of the convention said Friday.

Leah Daughtry told about 100 Utahns gathered for one of the national party's "Convention Conversations," which are being held throughout the region, that the Aug. 25-28 event presents "a tremendous opportunity" to showcase the West and its Democratic leaders.

That includes Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker and other Utah Democrats.

"You can expect to see your mayor and many of the other Western leaders in prominent roles," Daughtry said. Later she said that may or may not include a speaker's slot at the convention, since the program has yet to be finalized.

Becker, who also spoke at the hourlong gathering at the Memorial House in City Creek Canyon, said the Rocky Mountain West represents "a new frontier for the Democratic Party," a region that can serve as an example of responsible stewardship of natural resources.

Daughtry said the convention is already attracting attention because of what continues to be a hotly contested race for the Democratic presidential nomination between Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

She said there should be no rush to end the race until voters in every state have an opportunity to cast their ballots. "Let them have their say," Daughtry said of voters in Pennsylvania and other states that have yet to hold primary elections.

The excitement and enthusiasm generated this election year is "really overwhelming, and it's really heartwarming for us as Democrats," she said, later telling reporters she believed the nominee would be decided before the convention.

"We think it will be resolved by then," Daughtry said, adding that convention planners have prepared at least logistically for the possibility that the nominee will be chosen at the convention. "We'll be ready."

Utahns interested in participating in the convention can run to be named a delegate by the Utah Democratic Party, she said. They can also follow the preparations and the event itself through the party's Web site, www.demconvention.com.

Some 60 Utahns are among the more than 21,000 who have signed up to volunteer at the convention, including Gretchen King of Park City. King, who works at the University of Utah, said she came to hear Daughtry to learn more about the convention.

"I'll do whatever they need me to do," King said, describing herself as an Obama supporter who will vote for Clinton if she becomes the nominee. "It's going to be a historic convention, regardless of how it turns out, and I'd like to be part of it."

A number of the state's elected Democrats were also in the audience. Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, said the convention's focus on the Intermountain West "is a great thing for us in this region" even if Utah Democrats don't always agree with the national party's positions.

Democrats often hold differing opinions on the issues, Daughtry said. "Every Democrat is different from every other Democrat," she said, noting the diversity of the's region party members goes beyond race or gender.

Daughtry said the gathering in Salt Lake Friday was scheduled so she could attend the 178th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that begins Saturday.

A Pentecostal minister, Daughtry said she was invited to attend the conference by LDS Church leaders. She met with them last fall while in the state for the first time to speak at a Utah Democratic Party fund-raiser.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com