SALT LAKE CITY — Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is "kind of person we want" as vice president, his longtime friend, state Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, the Utah Democratic National Committeewoman, said Wednesday.
"We are so lucky he's the vice presidential nominee. It makes you realize a truly good and decent person can make it in public service," Arent, who first met Kaine more than 30 years ago, told KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright.
Both Kaine, announced last Saturday as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's running mate, and the Republican Party's vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, are seen as appealing to Utah voters.
That's in contrast to the names at the top of the Democratic and Republican tickets.
Clinton lost to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Utah's March Democratic presidential preference caucus with just 20 percent of the vote. Donald Trump, the Republican Party's nominee, received only 14 percent of the GOP caucus vote in March.
Kaine's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday night was set to be followed Thursday morning by a visit to the Utah delegation by Sanders.
The delegation was split 29-8 for Sanders. Some Utahns joined Sanders supporters from around the country who walked out after Clinton's formal nomination Tuesday night.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon told Wright there "may be a few" delegates still not ready to get behind Clinton. Corroon, also a superdelegate, backed Sanders.
"They put a lot of passion and energy into the Bernie Sanders campaign so they're rightfully a little dejected," Corroon said. "But they'll come around."
Hearing directly from Sanders, who urged his delegates at the convention to get behind her and then asked that Clinton's nomination be accepted by acclimation during the roll call vote, could speed up that process.
Or, Sutherland Institute President Boyd Matheson warned, it could make it harder.
"There's the potential for a sense of betrayal for those really invested," said Matheson, a former chief of staff to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. They may see his support for Clinton as "almost the epitome of the rigged system."
The Utah Democrats will be joined at the breakfast by delegations from Idaho, Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia staying at the same hotel in King of Prussia.
Other speakers scheduled are former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who also ran for president, Hawaii Gov. David Ige, and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, according to the Utah Democratic Party.
Arent, a superdelegate who backed Clinton, said she believes Utah Democrats already are coming together because they're "scared" of a Trump presidency. And she's eager for them to get to know Kaine better.
Arent first met Kaine when he attended her sister's wedding in Little Rock, Arkansas. The living room ceremony was supposed to be only for immediate family, but Arent said Kaine became close to her sister and brother-in-law at law school.
Since that day three decades ago, Kaine has visited the family in Utah and Arent has seen him at national Democratic Party meetings, including one where he threw her an impromptu birthday party.
"People accuse Tim Kaine of being boring," Arent said, describing him as thoughtful and a good listener. "This is not a boring person. This is the kind of person we want."
Kaine, a Catholic, is also "a deeply religious person. He took a year off law school to work as a missionary in Honduras. I've never heard of anyone doing that before, but that's the kind of person he is," Arent said.
Matheson described Kaine, a former Virginia governor, as a "little more moderate, little more vanilla, little more middle-of-the road" than Clinton and counters the "distrust and frustration" Utah voters feel about her.
Pence, a Christian conservative, is also somewhat bland, he said, providing a balance to Trump's bombast and bluster that has turned off many Utah Republicans in a state that hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since 1964.
The qualities Kaine and Pence bring resonate with Utah voters, Matheson said.
"Normally, you say the VP spot doesn't make a difference anyway. In most years, it doesn't. But this year, looking at these two guys, they're both tailor-made for Utah," he said.
Come November, Matheson said he expects Utah to go for Trump thanks in part to Pence.
"I think people see Pence as just a 'Steady Eddie' kind of guy. He knows the drill in terms of governing," Matheson said. "I think that does give some people a measure of comfort."
Longtime Utah pollster Dan Jones said there are now two "good picks" for vice president. His poll for UtahPolicy.com, taken in mid-June before the running mates were named, had Trump ahead of Clinton, 36 percent to 27 percent.
Kaine will play well in Utah, Jones said, even though Utahns don't know much about Clinton's running mate yet.
"But they will, I promise you. He's going to help her in Utah," the pollster said, but likely not enough for Clinton to carry the state. "I give an edge to Pence being a Republican over Kaine."