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New Utah endorsements for former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential bid

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the National Urban League Conference, Thursday, July 25, 2019, in Indianapolis.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the National Urban League Conference, Thursday, July 25, 2019, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced new endorsements from Utahns Monday, a list that includes former state Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell.

The 18 new endorsements come as Biden, who served as vice president under former President Barack Obama, is set to participate in his second presidential debate on Wednesday on CNN.

FILE - Scott Howell, Chairman of the Pioneer Park Coalition, discusses the urgency to expand Medicaid during a press conference at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015.
FILE - Scott Howell, Chairman of the Pioneer Park Coalition, discusses the urgency to expand Medicaid during a press conference at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015.
Stacie Scott, Deseret News

"I think he has genuine appeal to Utahns because he fits the mold of what the typical LDS person would think of as leadership," said Howell, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "He's got wisdom."

Howell, a state senator from 1989 to 2000, said he sat down at the start of his political career with Biden, then a U.S. senator from Delaware, during a trip to Washington at a meeting arranged by a centrist Democratic leadership group.

"He was so inspiring and so genuine," Howell said, recalling how Biden told him what it takes to hold office while dealing with personal loss. Biden's first wife and daughter were killed in a car crash shortly after he was elected senator in 1972.

Later, Howell said Biden came to Utah to make an appearance at one of the Utah Democratic legislator's first major fundraising events to benefit state House and Senate members.

A Democratic presidential candidate has not won Utah since then-President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but recent polls have shown only 38% of Utahns are ready to give Republican President Donald Trump a second term.

Utahns, Howell said, don't want to see the country follow progressive Democrats like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But they also take issue with the GOP president on issues like immigration, he said.

The list of Utah endorsements released by Biden's campaign Monday also includes former Utah Democratic Party Chairwoman Meg Holbrook and Joe Hatch, a former Salt Lake County councilman and county party chairman.

Others on the list are Dale Cox, a Murray city councilman who served as president of Utah AFL-CIO until his retirement in 2017, as well as current and former party and labor officials from around the state.

Last month, before the first Democratic presidential debates, Biden unveiled endorsements from Utah that included Wayne Holland, also a former Utah Democratic Party chairman who now heads Biden's campaign in the state.

The former vice president's campaign also released new endorsements from several others states Monday.

Biden said in a statement they're "crucial to this campaign. I look forward to standing alongside them and speaking with voters in their communities about rebuilding the backbone of our country — the middle class — and unifying America."