Daily Herald, April 13, 2012
Sixteen years ago Rob McMurray sat down with his stepfather to talk politics. The discussion of Bill Clinton versus Bob Dole in the presidential race came up, and he told his stepdad that he would probably be voting for Clinton in the election. The Clinton endorsement took his stepfather by surprise.
“Why would you vote for Clinton? You are supposed to vote for Dole,” the older man said.
McMurray asked why. His stepfather informed him that members of the LDS Church vote Republican. McMurray didn’t and still doesn’t, and he’s now tasked with the same kind of conversation, albeit on a larger scale — leading the Utah County Democratic Party in the heavily Mormon and heavily Republican area known as Utah County.
“It is OK to be LDS and be a Democrat,” said McMurray, who was put in place as the new county party chair at the county Democrat’s convention last Saturday. “I think the church in their own way has stepped forward and said it is OK to be in either party."
McMurray points to the letter church leaders issued earlier this year asking church members to be politically involved by attending their neighborhood caucus meetings as a call for members to be involved in both parties.
The letter, issued by the church’s First Presidency, called on local wards and stakes to cancel any scheduled meetings on the nights of the Democratic and Republican neighborhood caucuses. The letter asked for the cancellation so church members would be able to attend the meetings.
“I think that went a long way,” he said.
While the national party platform that McMurray’s party represents includes items such as supporting abortion rights and gay rights, items that some LDS members may take issue with when deciding if they want to join the party, McMurray contends that the Utah Democratic party is the “large tent” party that can accept many different people with differing perspectives.
“There are lots of Democrats, especially in Utah County, that don’t necessarily agree with the national platform, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be a Democrat,” he said.
McMurray also noted that a key to bringing in more LDS members will be reminding them that Utah once was a very politically divided state and that many LDS members have been involved with the Democratic party.
McMurray also noted that he isn’t only focusing on obtaining a Mormon bloc of Democrats in the county. He is looking to make his party the voice of all who live within the county boundaries.
“It is just drilling out that support. It is bringing people out of their houses and out of their shells and getting them to say, ‘yes, I am a Democrat and I live in Utah County,’ ” McMurray said.
McMurray has his work cut out for him coming up in the 2012 elections. County Democrats have fielded seven candidates to run for the state House, including a challenger to House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. They also have two challengers for state Senate, including a challenger against Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo.