Utah Kids in a Candy Store

By Margaret Ruth

Courtesy of the Democratic National Convention
by Jane Laird
Denver, August 25

A hazy Denver summer morning brings the intrepid Utah Democratic delegation to breakfast the first day of their convention. The excitement and enthusiasm is palpable, contagious. Like school kids on the first day of vacation, as Utah’s nickname would indicate, this breakfast crew buzzes. The reason is understandable; surrounded by like-minded souls, political celebrities and overwhelming media attention, convention week in Denver looks to be a playground that does not exist on home turf.

"How lame have the ‘Utah Democrat’ jokes become for you?" I ask Utah Democratic Party Communications Director Bill Keshear. He explains that the first question people ask is how the words ‘Utah’ and ‘Democrat’ could possibly fit together.

"Is the Utah group excited today?" Bill grins: "Oh yes! This is like the Superbowl." The opportunity to be in a place where he does not have to keep explaining his views feels good.

Another reason for the excitement is the sheer array of events, panels, workshops, receptions and parties. Bob and Gwen Springmeyer of Salt Lake City are convention guests of the delegation, as Bob is running for Utah governor; they are a bit flummoxed with all the choices available this week. Bob’s interests in Denver are the events for Democratic governors. Possibilities beyond that are staggeringly large and Gwen studies the schedules to determine what’s next.

Susie McHugh and Mary Lou Huffmon plan to go the Denver Art Museum after breakfast; they went to the Friends of New Orleans event the night before. Susie can hardly wait to go to the convention and anticipates that Senator Clinton’s reception for her supporters on Wednesday will be a tremendous experience. As a member of the Convention Rules Committee and a member of the Utah attendees, she says she has been inundated with invitations. Choosing which events to go to looks like the most difficult voting decision of the week.

Emily Rushton is appropriately dressed in purple for the start of convention week. A Democrat for only two years, she’s a first-time Convention delegate. Her mother jokes that the family conversations are now "purple conversations." Her plans for Monday include going to a Progressive Action for Democrats panel.

Denver, August 26

Tuesday morning, Utah’s Democratic delegation is little more tired, but even more enthusiastic from the Monday convention events. "Our delegate bus driver drove through parking lots to get us there on time," says Susie. She is thrilled with Denver and its people. Gwen and Bob had "crashed" several events Monday; I think it is brave of a prospective governor to admit this behavior. Bob says he was seated just above the Utah floor delegation and could have thrown a paper airplane at them easily. I doubt that anyone would have noticed it.
After a convention night that featured Senator Kennedy’s live appearance and Michelle Obama’s speech, most people admitted tears during at least one if not both. Bob describes it: "When Caroline Kennedy came out, when Ted Kennedy came out, I was in tears. Michelle did a fabulous job-a lot more heart than I had seen from her before. There was an electricity in the hall."

That was just the first 24 hours. After breakfast, delegates and guests and media break up, some departing quickly for their next event. The events, the caucuses, the receptions, the people of Denver are still thrilling to Susie, but, "you get ‘evented-out’ here," she says.

Jane Laird is an "Obama Republican," having the time of her life at the Democratic Convention.

This article was originally published on September 1, 2008.