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Hillary for Utah opens state campaign headquarters in Salt Lake City

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves to supporters before speaking during a rally, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves to supporters before speaking during a rally, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Julie Jacobson, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — Hillary Clinton's campaign organizers hit a milestone in Utah on Wednesday when they opened the operation's state headquarters.

More than 100 supporters crowded into a suite at the Higland Park Plaza, 3098 S. Highland Dr., to celebrate the opening of the Hillary for Utah headquarters. Campaigners were upbeat about their candidate's commitment to the state, saying that 2016 is the first election cycle in which both Democratic candidates have set up a home base in Utah.

"(We are) being taken seriously for the first time," said Miriam Hyde. "They're not just kicking Utah to the (side). For us, it's incredible, it's exciting, it's like wow, we mean something."

Hyde, who chairs the Utah Disability Caucus, said she was at the campaign event representing herself only. She believes Clinton is the best option for president of the United States, despite her reservations about all of the candidates in the race.

"There are things that every politician has done that I don't like. Sometimes that's the way it is," Hyde said. "When it comes down to the general election … I think it's (got to be) Hillary."

Other prominent supporters said they saw the potential to pull off a major upset in the general election in Utah, normally a deeply Republican state. Former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson told campaigners that they can be a part of "the biggest political revolution in Utah in a very long time."

"It might work out with (Donald) Trump on the (Republican) ticket that Utah will become a battleground state," Wilson said to cheers.

Salt Lake County Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw said he is trying to be "eternally optimistic" about Clinton's chances in a general election in Utah, but his main concern is ensuring she wins the state's Democratic caucus on March 22.

"Participation in the nomination process is where we really feel like we have a voice in the election, to be quite honest," Bradshaw said of Utah Democrats.

Hillary for Utah state director Rebecca Lipson said the campaign is currently focused only on the Democratic primary. She said the group's effort will zero in on the "bread and butter" of local campaigning: phone calls and door knocking.

"Our main goal is to educate people on who Hillary Clinton really is," Lipson said.

The new Salt Lake City campaign office opened in conjunction with an endorsement of Clinton by Salt Lake City Mayor Jacki Biskupski, who on Wednesday lauded the candidate's experience in "breaking down the barriers that hold people back and delivering real results."

"The presidency is a serious position, and Hillary possesses the experience needed to make our country stronger, safer and fairer," Biskupski said in a prepared statement. "By opening an office in Salt Lake City, her campaign is sending a clear message that they are not taking anything for granted, and I encourage Utahns to caucus for Hillary on March 22."

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson also attended the headquarters' opening in support of Clinton. She echoed Ted Wilson's sentiment that the general election may be up for grabs in Utah, depending on Republicans' reception of Trump, that party's current frontrunner, in the event that he is nominated.

"We can win (over) Republicans with that matchup," she said. "That matchup of those two here is a gift."

Jenny Wilson said she is encouraged by the campaign's organization so far in Utah.

"People keep showing up. I can't tell you how many people are on the ground," she said.

Clinton is currently the frontrunner in the Democratic Party presidential race. She leads candidate Bernie Sanders in delegates.

Email: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: benlockhartnews