The Utah County Democratic Party has launched a Progressive Caucus that party leadership says will provide a much-needed voice for progressive and liberal voters in the predominantly red county.

The caucus, which the county party announced the formation of on July 6, is part of a greater push by party leaders to engage with Democratic voters in Utah County.

“Basically, it’s a way to get progressives involved in politics in Utah County and (with) issues that affect our community,” Everett Slagle, chair of the Progressive Caucus, told the Daily Herald in an interview on Tuesday.

Slagle pointed to the 2020 Democratic primary election as evidence of the need for more progressive representation in Utah Valley.

During that election, progressive candidate Bernie Sanders received 8,596 votes in Utah County, 36.9%, while the more moderate Joe Biden received 4,359 votes, about 19%. That’s only nine more votes than were cast for Elizabeth Warren, another progressive candidate, according to numbers from the Utah County Elections Division.

“We saw more people vote for Bernie Sanders than for Joe Biden. And so the Democrats here in Utah County are definitely of the more progressive variety,” the Progressive Caucus chair said. “And so we felt like it was time to create a caucus for them where they could have their voices heard and talk about the issues that matter to them, and bring that perspective into the Democratic Party.”

What issues will the Progressive Caucus tackle? Slagle said “we’re really trying to focus on community issues, especially, whether that’s talking about homelessness in Utah County, or whether we’re talking about LGBTQ representation at BYU, or different issues that affect people here at the county level.”

“That’s what we’re trying to get people involved in,” said Slagle. “Obviously, as we’re a county caucus, we’re trying to get them to understand the issues that affect the people around them here in the community.”

Another purpose of the caucus is to show the rest of the state that there are Democrats in Utah County, according to Kevin Perez, chair of the county party, who complained about a “lack of representation for smaller counties” within the larger state party.

“Is (it) a problem that we don’t have a more diverse representation? Yes. But, at the same time, with the majority of the active Democrats being in Salt Lake, of course they’re going to take (the majority of) those representative seats,” Perez said.

Over the past two years, Perez said he and others have “done everything in our power here in Utah County to not just activate, but mobilize Democrats, to not just be active during the presidential election years, but also on (the) off-season.”

“Because really, while we’re looking at the presidential election being all the hype, there’s a lot of stuff in the down-ballot races that really affects us on a day-to-day level, from whether a library’s going to stay open, or whether we’re going to get better roads, whether our schools are going to get the proper funding,” said Perez. “And we’ve done quite a bit over the last two years to engage and activate.”

The Utah County Democratic Party plans to be active during this year’s municipal election and anticipates that it will support 15 different candidates in races “ranging from anything from future House district races all the way down to city council (races),” according to Vice President Katie Lynn Adams-Anderton.

But the county party’s ultimate goal is to “see a more active base here in Utah County” over the next decade, according to Perez.

“Utah County is starting to see a trend,” Perez said, “whether you want to (attribute) it to such a young demographic that we have in Utah County, or the influx of people from other states, or even just the businesses that are popping up in Utah County are drawing more diverse groups of people. We’re seeing this trend of Utah County turning purple. And due to the growth that we have seen, it’s not a matter of if it will go purple, but when it goes purple. And I think the next 10 years are really going to determine which way Utah County will go.”

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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