Democratic Mormons head to convention on mission of political outreach

By MATT CANHAM Salt Lake Tribune Published:

WASHINGTON (SHNS) -- Utah Democrats are bringing their Mormon outreach to a national stage, hosting a fundraiser headlined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid during the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

The plan is for the new LDS Democrats caucus to hold the event on Tuesday at a hotel across the street from main convention hall in Charlotte, N.C., where first lady Michelle Obama will address the assemblage later that evening.

Organizers hope to attract Mormons living in North Carolina and any LDS delegates attending the week's festivities as part of a wider campaign to persuade The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to take a second look at the Democratic Party.

"While some people question Senator Reid's political view of the world, no one has ever questioned his commitment, his faith and his testimony in the LDS Church," said Jim Dabakis, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party. "It is a thrill and a pleasure to have Senator Reid speak to LDS Dems."

The group has also invited other Mormon Democrats, such as Sen. Tom Udall, of New Mexico. In all, they expect about 200 people to attend. The event will take place a matter of days after Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination, becoming the first Mormon to represent a major party, a fact not lost on Democratic organizers.

"It's pretty important that the image our state and our church projects is not just the conservative Mitt Romney image," said Craig Janis, of South Jordan, Utah, an active member of the LDS Dems and a national delegate.

"I would love for our image as LDS people and as Utahns more generally to be such that there is no political association with it."

Dabakis knows some may construe their effort as a shot at Romney, but he said that's not the goal.

"This is really not about Mitt Romney," he said. "This is about building the Utah Democratic Party and the Democratic Party in the West generationally."

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