If anyone wants to know how the Utah Democratic Party is faring, here's a summary of the elected officials in the Utah Democratic party, a short blurb about them (from my own viewpoint, so though I like to say I'm informed, take it with a grain of salt), and possible candidates for 2014 and beyond.
As of October 2013, we've got one Congressman, 5 state senators, 14 state representatives, a half-dozen city mayors, one county mayor, and a half-dozen county level officials, including five county council members.
As a side note, this overview is based primarily on a mix of my own observations and non-insider info from folks who have been following the Utah Democrats for far longer than I have.
Also, I may use the abbreviations SLC, SLCO, and WVC. SLC is short for Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah and the most populous city in the state. SLCO is short for Salt Lake County, the most populated county in the state, which contains Salt Lake City. Either the County or City can be referred to as "Salt Lake", but that can confuse non-Utahns, so I won't use that nickname. WVC is short for West Valley City, which is the second-largest city in Utah.
Lastly, for those Democrats who I think are doing great and are personally inspiring to me (especially if I've personally met them), I will put in bold at the end of the "blurb" the phrase: Gygaxian Approved!
Jim Matheson: He's the one everybody should know, the center-right six-term Democratic Congressman from Utah. I've wasted a lot of time arguing about him, so I'll just say that he's incredibly popular, currently holding a 57% approval rating and polling neck-to-neck to both Senator Orrin Hatch and Governor Gary Herbert in a 2011 Public Policy Polling poll. He's the son of the last Democratic Governor of Utah, and he's well-placed to run in a gubernatorial race or Senate race. Many Utah Democrats believe that he is the only candidate that can win statewide. Whether Matheson will take the plunge in 2016 or not is a matter of debate. Of course in 2014, Matheson may have to fend off a Democratic challenger backed by disgruntled progressives before facing off in a rematch against Saratoga Springs Mayor and GOP rising star Mia Love.
Susan Duckworth: Moderate from the sprawling District 22, centered mostly in Magna, an old union town. Elected in 2008 in place of her husband, who was diagnosed with cancer. She's one of the older state representatives, and her non-legislative job is being a caregiver (though she's also been active in a lot of local Magna groups like the Magna Chamber of Commerce), so she could retire relatively soon.
Jen Seelig: House Minority Leader from District 23 in the portion of Salt Lake City near the airport. Since she's in leadership, I would say she's the party-line, but to be honest, I don't know what the "party line" of Utah Dems is. Presumably center-left. Seelig was appointed in early 2006.
Rebecca Chavez-Houck: Hispanic liberal from District 24, a dense inner-city district in Salt Lake City. Elected in 2008. Seems to get along well with most legislators, whether Democratic or Republican. Is in a surprisingly white district, considering that some of her neighbors have tremendously diverse districts, and that Hispanic politicians in Utah don't tend to get elected outside of those diverse districts.
Joel Briscoe: Progressive or center-left candidate from District 25, a well-educated Salt Lake City district. Not sure if he's Mormon or not. Former high school teacher and great advocate for education.
Angela Romero: Hispanic Progressive and in her first term in downtown Salt Lake City, in District 26, the least white district in Utah (42% Hispanic). She Could replace State Senator Luz Robles if Robles won a Congressional seat. Romero holds the distinction of being the only legislator to receive a Green Party challenge in 2012. Combined, the Republican and Green Party candidates got 34% of the vote, so she has an utterly safe district.
Brian King: Progressive white Mormon elected in 2008 in the incredibly safe District 28, which covers a long stretch in Salt Lake City (the LGBT-friendly Avenues neighborhood, I think?) and a small portion of Dem-friendly Summit county. King is tremendously popular, and both Mormons and non-Mormons like him. King is also one of my personal heroes because of his polite, but firm defense of progressive ideals and his sense of humor. Occasionally has a glorious beard. Gygaxian Approved!
Janice "Jan" Fisher: Moderate-to-liberal Democrat from district 30 in western West Valley City. Has a somewhat diverse district with an high school grad education level. I don't know much about her, to be honest, other than the fact that she was a West Valley City Councilwoman for 16 years. She was redistricted into the district of Republican Fred Cox, but narrowly defeated him. We may have a problem if she retires. Appointed in 2005.
Larry Wiley: White liberal (apparently?) from District 31 in WVC, neighboring Jan Fisher's district. HD-31 is very diverse with a Hispanic population of 36%. I don't know much about him. He's somewhat old, so there's always the danger of him retiring, which could hurt us, because he won his district 51-49% against a strong candidate. Like Jan Fisher, appointed in 2005. May be a backbencher type, but that's hard to quantify when the media rarely covers the Utah Dems at all.
Mark Wheatley: Despite his deceptively Anglo-sounding name, Rep. Wheatley is a Hispanic and progressive Democrat from District 35, which mostly encompasses Dem-friendly Murray and parts of South Salt Lake. He is the husband to Josie Valdez (2012 State Senate candidate and current Utah Dem vice-chair), and is fairly popular. Elected in 2004. Could be a decent Murray mayoral candidate down the line, if he wanted to try for that.
Patrice Arent: Liberal from District 36, which encompasses parts of half a dozen cities, but mostly the unincorporated area of Milcreek. Arent (pronounced "Are-ent") is currently the only Jewish member of the legislature, and could be a candidate to replace retiring state senator Pat Jones. Was the legislator behind successful legislation intended to curb parents smoking in cars with kids and (failed) legislation to remove straight-ticket voting. Arent was recently called an "Air Nazi" by a GOP legislator for the anti-smoking legislation. Otherwise, Arent is very accomplished and well-liked, having two straight paragraphs of awards and community/professional affiliations on her legislative profile. Has gone between the state house and state senate every few years since 1997.
Carol Spackman Moss: Moderate-to-liberal LDS Democrat from District 37, which currently seems to mostly be in Holladay, a city I don't know much about. She is one of the older members of the legislature, but she seems to be enjoying her career in the legislature. Moss has great campaigning skills, as narrowly won 52-47% in 2012 against a well-funded challenger in a slightly redistricted district. Like Joel Briscoe, she's a former educator and a fantastic voice against school vouchers. Elected in 2000.
Lynn Hemingway: Progressive Democrat from District 40, another Holladay district. I know very little about him, but looking through Salt Lake Tribune articles where he is featured, he seems to be a good-government type who doesn't like the spotlight. Also in favor of the Utah Compact, a moderate immigration document. Elected in 2006. EDIT: He is apparently not a moderate, but a low-key progressive.
Tim Cosgrove: Moderate Democrat from District 44 in Murray, and yet another state rep I know little about. He beat the obnoxious Chad Bennion, current chair of the SLCO GOP in 2004, and had a tough re-election in 2010. He seems to be doing fine now though.
Marie Poulson: Moderate Democrat who represents District 46, which is Cottonwood Heights. An educator who, you guessed it, I don't know much about. Poulson was a strong voice in favor of Medicaid expansion (which hasn't been decided on yet, incidentally) in discussions earlier this year. Great attendance record, apparently. Elected in 2008.
Jim Dabakis: What can I say about Jim Dabakis? He's been involved in LGBT rights since the 90s, he's an openly gay ex-Mormon, he's the current chairman of the Utah Democratic Party... He's an interesting fellow, to say the least. He currently represents Senate District 2, which is mainly made up of the LGBT-friendly Avenues neighborhood in SLC and the University of Utah campus. He's in one of the safest districts in the state, and seems to be personally progressive, but ultra-pragmatic as chairman. He defeated six other candidates for the privileged of being appointed to former senator Ben McAdams' seat in December 2012. He was elected as state party chair in 2011 (which is now his day job), and was a millionaire art dealer before. He has publicly stressed his desire to attract Mormons to the Democratic Party, and is teaming up with Howard Dean and the DCCC to register 40,000 new voters by Election Day 2014.
Luz Robles: A center-left Hispanic legislator, Robles represents Senate District 1, which mostly encompasses the uber-diverse and safely Democratic Rose Park neighborhood in SLC, but also more conservative areas in the city. She recently announced that she is running for Congress against freshman Chris Stewart in UT-02. She's already raised $50,000 in less than a month, so she may be a stronger candidate than expected. Robles is also a native of Mexico, and helped the Mexican government with something a few years before being elected to the State Senate (beating a popular Democratic incumbent) in 2008. Robles is also a Mormon, which could help her GOTV with the rapidly growing Hispanic LDS population. Gygaxian Approved!
Gene Davis: Gene Davis is the current Senate Minority Leader, and represents District 3, which consists of southern Salt Lake City and the completely separate city of South Salt Lake. Davis is very centrist. He's been in the legislature since the 80s (elected to the state house in 1986, and to the state senate in 1998), and he hasn't been winning with very large margins (about 3-5% in 2002 and 2010), despite being in a relatively liberal area. He could retire or face a challenge from the left, but any Democratic challenge would be an uphill one, since he's been around longer than half of the voters.
Patricia "Pat" Jones: Pat Jones is a very center-right Democrat from District 4, centered around Holladay and a small portion of SLC. She's been in the state senate since 2006, and in the state house since 2000. Jones is married to legendary Utah pollster Dan Jones (a Republican), and both are retiring in 2014. Jones' district was combined with Ross Romero's district in redistricting, which caused Romero to retire and run for SLCO Mayor. She has angered a lot of progressives over the years (including with a bill against LGBT adoption, from what I've heard), so many are eager to reclaim this now blue district with Patrice Arent or Ross Romero. Jones is currently pushing a bill to lessen or eliminate the education tax exemption that favors large families.
Karen Mayne: A moderate (with pro-union sensibilities) from District 5, which encompasses a large portion of West Valley City. She took over the senate seat of her husband Ed Mayne (who was a long time legislator and head of the Utah AFL-CIO for 30 years) after he died of cancer in 2008.
Notable Mayors and Council members:
Ralph Becker: Becker has been the mayor of Salt Lake City since 2008. He's a very popular progressive with a focus on having a "green city" and combating SLC's awful air quality. He's also a protege of his predecessor Rocky Anderson, but thankfully he's far less combative and angry. He hasn't announced that he's running for re-election (in 2015) yet, but I see no reason why he wouldn't go for a third term. Apparently he was in the legislature for six years, which I didn't know before today.
Dana Williams: Williams has been the Mayor of Park City (a progressive tourist city with three ski resorts) since 2002. I don't know much about him, but the local Park Record newspaper describes him as an "activist turned politician". Also described as a "hippie turned mayor". He's liberal and tremendously popular, but retiring this year. Not a Mormon. Interesting guy, apparently.
JoAnn Seghini: Seghini is the moderate mayor of Midvale, a center-lefty suburb city in the middle of Salt Lake County. She is 71 years old and has been mayor of Midvale since 1998. A lot of people thought she would be facing Olga de la Cruz (a candidate that many hoped would be a Hispanic rising star in midvale), but de la Cruz placed an extremely distant third in the primary. Seghini does not face any real opposition this fall.
Mike Caldwell: Caldwell was elected as Mayor of Ogden in 2011. I don't know much about him. I've been told he's progressive, and he's definitely a Democrat. His city is 20% minority and one of the bigger cities in Utah, so that's a considerable base for any future elections. He could be a future candidate against Congressman Rob Bishop, or at least a candidate for the legislature.
Ben McAdams: Ben (he's not my personal friend, but he's such a nice guy that many people call him Ben) is the Mayor of Salt Lake County, the county which holds over a million residents, nearly half of all the population of Utah. He's been mayor for only about 10 months, but he seems to be doing pretty well so far. He's introduced expanded pre-kindergarden education and managed to use county funds to fund some of the food stamps programs during the shutdown. He ran as a fiscal moderate/center-right type and a strong social liberal, and before being elected as Mayor, was well-known for his efforts to combat credit card fraud and to enact anti-discrimination policies. He's had a minor scandal involving funding to a mental hospital, but nothing that would make or break him. He's also well known for having a good sense of humor (when running for mayor, he had a giant orange campaign bus and billboards that read "Eagle Scout, not Eagle Forum") and having a skilled campaign crew. Fun fact: He knows English, Portuguese, and Spanish. Gygaxian Approved!
Sim Gill: Sim Gill is an interesting guy; born in India and experiencing the problems in their justice system before moving to the United States and later Utah, he's basically made his political career about smashing corruption. He was elected as Salt lake County District Attorney in 2010, running a strong campaign and ousting a corrupt Republican incumbent. He's very progressive (even talked about problems with the War on Drugs once), and popular after his handling of a police corruption scandal in West Valley City. The Republicans don't have a strong candidate against Gill in 2014, and he could be a fantastic Dem candidate for Attorney General in 2016, especially if corrupt incumbent John Swallow is still on the ballot. He's surprisingly charismatic and the first Indian-American District Attorney. I'm a big fan of him. Gygaxian Approved!
Sam Granato: Granato was the Democratic candidate for Senate in 2010 against Mike Lee, and you can guess how that went. In 2012, he successfully ran for the SLCO County Council last year. He's in his 60s and staunchly moderate, so I don't really see him going beyond the County Council. He could be an interesting replacement for Jim Matheson in UT-04 if Matheson runs for Senate or Governor. Is currently growing a great goatee and is one of the surprisingly few Italian Americans in Utah politics.
Jim Bradley: Bradley has been on the County Council since 2000, and worked with the county government before then. He's in his mid sixties, moderate, and highly respected. He was just re-elected last year in an at-large seat. He's energetic, but ambitious pols are always watching him and Randy Horiuchi in case either of them retire, since County Council is one of the few places Democrats can make a difference in Utah.
Randy Horiuchi: Like Jim Bradley, Horiuchi has been in SLCO county government for decades; Horiuchi has been around since before 1998, when SLCO switched to the county council plus mayor system. Horiuchi seems to be a moderate (though slightly more progressive than Bradley, if I recall correctly). He may retire in 2014 because of the combined problem of a recent stroke he had, and a few ethical problems involving one of his developer friends. I have no idea who could replace him.
Arlyn Bradshaw: A first-term County Council Member elected in 2010. I don't know much about him, but seeing as how he's young (was 29 when elected), openly gay, and helped enact a bunch of liberal initiatives (such as preventing LGBT discrimination, regulating pay day loans, and so forth), it's safe to say he's probably a staunch progressive. He could be a candidate for SLCO Mayor or Senate District 2 down the line, since both line up Progressive, young, openly gay. Don't know much about him. Could be a potential candidate for State Senate District 2 down the line. Gygaxian Approved!
Possible and Declared Candidates:
Ross Romero: Ross Romero is a former state senator from District 6 whose district was combined with Pat Jones' district. Ross decided to run for SLCO mayor instead of running against Pat Jones. He lost at convention to Ben McAdams, who is of course the new SLCO mayor. Now that Pat Jones is retiring, Ross has declared his candidacy for her state senate seat. He's a tremendously nice guy personally, and a good liberal to boot. Very similar to Ben McAdams, actually. Possibly a bit less progressive environmentally but potentially more liberal on fiscal issues. Fun fact: He stated once as a state senator that he didn't actually know Spanish, since despite being Hispanic, he was raised in a very white, English-only area of Salt Lake City.Gygaxian approved!
Liz Muniz: A center-left Hispanic Democrat, Muniz was the 2012 Democratic candidate for House District 33, in West Valley City (WVC). She defeated the center-right Democratic incumbent Neal Hendrickson at convention, but lost to GOP candidate Craig Hall in a 47-52 election, courtesy of either the "Romney Tsunami", racists not voting for Muniz because she's Hispanic and beat a white Democrat, or because Craig Hall has roots in the district, depending on who you ask. I don't believe she has announced her candidacy for 2014 yet, but her loss was close enough that many think it's just a matter of time. If she can beat Craig Hall, I think she'll be pretty well entrenched, since there seems to be a sense of regret that Hall was elected, and also because the district is 32% Hispanic and nearly had a Hispanic Rep. Gygaxian approved!
Celina Milner: Like Muniz, Milner is a center-left Hispanic Democrat and ran for a diverse, WVC-based state house district in 2012. Unlike Muniz, Milner did not take down a Democratic incumbent, but instead faced a freshman GOP incumbent named Johnny Anderson. Milner lost 46-53 (ultimately about 750 votes, whereas Muniz lost by 500 votes). She has already announced her candidacy for the same seat in 2014. I think her district is also in Luz Roble's district, so if Robles won in UT-02 (or decided not to seek re-election in 2016), she could be a good candidate. Interestingly, Milner, Muniz, and Robles all seem to have motivated and experienced campaign crews, which could help their campaigns...
Peter Corroon: Corroon is a former two-term Salt Lake County Mayor first elected in 2004, and direct predecessor of Ben Adams in that office. He's regarded as a popular moderate Democrat, and seemed well-placed to challenge Gary Herbert in the special gubernatorial election of 2010, caused by Governor Huntsman running off to China to be ambassador. Unfortunately, even though Corroon had ousted his GOP predecessor as SLCO mayor by capitalizing on her corruption scandals, the same strategy did not work on Herbert, and Corroon lost that election badly. He ultimately did not pursue a third term as SLCO mayor in 2012, leaving that to Dem wunderkind Ben McAdams. However, when McAdams resigned his senate seat in order to assume the mayorship, Corroon was one of the candidates who ran for the privilege of being appointed to McAdam's senate seat. He lost to state party chair Jim Dabakis, because the ultra-progressive district did not like his avowed moderation. However, Corroon is still under 50 years old, and is still well-liked by Republicans and Democrats alike, so he could be a good candidate for a couple of positions; the most likely seems to be UT-04 if Matheson goes for Senate or Governor.
Erin Mendenhall: Current executive of Breath Utah, an air quality watchdog/thinktank. She's currently a candidate for a Salt Lake City Council seat (I forget which one), but her only general election opponent got 25% in the non-partisan primary, so she's utterly safe. Mendenhall is an excellent progressive, and combined with her relatively young age (I figure it's rude to ask), she seems to be an excellent future candidate for Salt Lake City mayor. Gygaxian Approved!
Turner Bitton: Bitton is an interesting guy; he's a staunch progressive who came out of basically nowhere (a few community leadership positions, but not really that well known) to run for Ogden City Council in 2013. From all accounts, he's run a fantastic campaign, knocking on all the doors he needs to, raising all the money he needs, getting the endorsements and media exposure he needs, etc. He seems to have a good chance of winning the city council seat this year, which could be a harbinger of future Democratic victories in Ogden. Plus, he's very young (in his late 20s, I think), and could be an effective legislative candidate in a few cycles. I've seen a couple of videos featuring him, and he seems to be very articulate, which helps. Gygaxian Approved!
By the way, feel free to ask questions about any of these candidates, or about the areas where Democrats hold sway (or could win). I'll answer to the best of my ability, but I will tell you if I can't provide insider info.