Clinton bus rides blue wave into Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Democrats see a path to victory in the Beenhive State and they’re jumping at the chance bringing in the Clinton campaign bus and on board the head of the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile. 

Utah hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1964 when it cast it’s then 4 electoral votes for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson over Republican Barry Goldwater, and in 2016 Utah is looking more purple than a red or blue state giving Democrats a lot of optimism.

“I think there’s a good shot this year,” said Senator Jim Dabakis (D).  

On Wednesday Republicans welcome Vice-Presidenital candidate Mike Pence to Utah at a rally at the Infintity Event Center in Salt Lake City.  Thursday, it was the Democrats turn to try to appeal to new voters and swing the pendulum in their favor rolling in to town with the “Forward Together” bus tour.

Arriving around 12:30 Thursday afternoon it stopped at the Utah Hillary Clinton Headquarters in Salt Lake City to a small crowd of volunteers holding ‘Clinton-Kaine’ signs and shouting “Turn Utah Blue,” and “Utah Votes Matter,” a homage to the fact that for the first time in decades Utah is a swing state in the presidential election.

Inside headquarters volunteers were calling Utahns explaining to them the rules surrounding mail-in ballots and reminding them to get out and vote.  One couple who spoke to ABC4 News said they were calling all registered Democrats and undecided voters.  They said the majority of the people they had called had already cast their ballots and those who hadn’t were leaning towards a third-party candidate.

With less than two weeks until the elections many Democrats at headquarters today said Utahns are realizing what’s at stake this year and hope they’ll see Clinton is the best choice to lead the country.

“Who’s gonna get us through the next four years and maintain a kind of respect and strength of the Unitied States?  And I think Hillary Clinton comes away from that discussion with the votes of a lot of Utahns,” said Senator Dabakis.

“It goes without saying that Utah is important,” said Walter Garcia, Western Regional Communicatios Director for the Democratic National Committee, “And part of the reason is that folks realize that Donald Trump can’t be in the White House — not today, not ever.”

Garcia, who has been traveling on the bus tour passing through several battleground states including Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada, says he is confident Utahns will see through Donald Trump and cast their votes for Secretary Clinton.  He says Clinton is the best choice for the White House because of her experience, record, and temperment.  

“Overall, it goes without saying that Secretary Clinton is the right person for the job,” he said.

He also bashed Utah Republican leaders, specfiically Congressman Jason Chaffetz, for re-endorsing Donald Trump after publicly withdrawing his support after an Access Hollywood video tape was leaked to the Washington Post showing Donald Trump making lewd and offensive comments about women to host Billy Bush in 2005.

“We’ve had two members of Congress flip-flop tremedously.  This morning they came out and said, ‘you know what? In spite of all that stuff we’re going to vote for him.’ How can you in good consicence make a big scene about it, make national headlines, ‘I’m not gonna vote for Trump and all of a sudden, you know, Secretary Clinton?  I just can’t do it, I have to vote for Trump,’ said Garcia.    

Garcia adding that this is a sign of inadequate leadership in Utah, “Utah deserves better leaders,” and encourages Utahns to vote down the Democratic line.  

The bus also stopped by the University of Utah campus where it looked to appeal to the younger generation, “I’m just so excited to vote for Hillary Cltinon,” said a female student.  While another added, “Utah is a battleground state, she’s [Brazile] is coming here to rally Clinton supporters, so it’s pretty cool.”

Before swinging over to the Salt Lake City and County Building for a rally with Clinton supporters.  The bus rolling in as Aretha Franklin’s ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T.’ finished playing.  Brazile was greeted by a group of about 100 Democrats chanting “Hillary, Hillary,” as she stepped off the bus.  

Brazile was joined by many prominent Democratic leaders and candidates including Utah Democratic Party Chair, Peter Corroon, Representative Patrice Arent, Gubernatorial candiate Mike Weinholtz and his running mate Kim Bowman, Democratic Senate nominee Misty Snow – who seeks to unseat Republican Mike Lee, and Democratic candidate for Congressional District 2, Charlene Albarran. 

Corroon taking the mic first speaking about the three-way tie in Utah and saying they’re seeing a record turnout in ballots.  As of Thursday afternoon, Corroon said they had seen an increase in returned ballots by 33%.  A sign, he says, that Democrats are showing up to vote but reiterated that it is still a lower turnout than Republcans are seeing. 

Brazile captalizing on that statistic saying, “We’re not gonna take any vote for granted, we’re not gonna take any state for granted.  We’re campaiging in all 50 states, we want to win from the top of the ticket from the courthouse to the White House.”

During her 7 minute speech to the crowd Brazile spoke about the unity the Democratic party has seen this year, saying Democrats have come together to ensure Democrats are elected in the upcoming election. She also spoke about how inclusive the Demcoratic Party has been, highlighting that the party has a record number of female and minority candidates seeking office.  

Brazile also spoke briefly about Clinton’s policies shedding light on Secretary Clinton’s work as a champion for children and women.  Specifically on the topics about improving health care and early childhood education.  

Her main focus though was to rally support for Clinton and encourage people to get themselves registered to vote, turn up at the polls, and volunteer on behlaf of their candidate.  

“Now you can vote early in the state of Utah in Salt Lake City so it’s time to get your voting groove on,” said Brazile as she led the crowd into cheering “I will vote! I will vote! I will vote!”

She believes Utah can send a great message in the fall and thanked the crowds determination to swing the state in Clinton’s favor to ensure ‘this country continues to be prosperous and strong and dynamic.’

Brazile also pointed out that Utah needs leaders that will work for the people and not special lobbyists, and called out Republican leaders, including Congresssman Jason Chaffetz, for blocking Merick Garland’s Supreme COurt hearing and threatening to block any nominee by President Obama or a Secretary Clinton if she were to win the presidency.

“We should not obstruct,” she said.  “We should come together, we should work together, and we should build a better future.  This election is about you,” she said.  

But the event didn’t go without a few hiccups, a small group of people showed up to protest Brazile’s pressence shouting at the Chair as she spoke.  Those jeers were drowned out by the crowd who began to shout “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary,” each time the protestors raised their voice.  Brazile responding to the protesters after sometime saying, “We know we have people here, they’re excited about their candidates.  Whether you support Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine — I love you, I want you to get out there and vote.  But, if you’re supporting another caniddate I want you to get out and vote, I want you to have that right to participate.  We’re not going to deny you that right but don’t deny us that right.  We want every American to vote.”

After her speech ABC4 News spoke to Brazile and asked her about a new email obtained by Politico which allegedly showed that Brazile had received the text to a town hall question in advance of a town hall meeting between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders during the primaries.  The Politico story alleges Brazile passed along the question to the Clinton campaign ahead of that meeting.  In response Brazile said:

“I regret that John Podesta’s private emails were stolen and used in a such a way to sow seeds of confusion and discomfort and you know, once upon a time we as Americans believed that anytime a foreign government interfered with out government we would condemn them not just as poltiical parties, but as patriots, and so I’m looking forward to the American people hearing the issues, talking about the issues, and not spending much of our time reviewing stolen hacked emails.”

Thursday evening The Utah Repubilcan Party released a statement calling for Democrats to denounce Brazile over the email saying, “The dishnoesty in the Democratic National Committee is astounding…Donna Brazile was coordinating with the Clinton campaign and using her position with CNN to feed questions to a candidate prior to a public event.  This dishonest and shocking behavior is not representative of Utah values.”

Brazile wrapped up her Utah tour by speaking to students at a rally at Westminster College Thursday night.  

Currently Hillary Clinton is in third place in Utah but not by much.  The latest Utah Policy polls puts Clinton at 25% of the vote in Utah behind Independent Candidate Evan McMullin and Republican Nominee Donald Trump who sit at a virtual tie with 29% and 30% of the vote, respectively.  

Democrats, however, aren’t discouraged by the numbers saying Clinton could very well sneak in and clinch Utah’s 6 electoral votes as Republican continue to split between McMullin and Trump.  They say it can only happen if Democrats turn out in record numbers to vote. 

“We need to be serious about our vote and not make it a protest vote,” said Dabakis.  “I think Hillary can win and I think people are beginning to realize that.”

And as Garcia boards the tour bus on it’s way to campaign in Colorado he too has confidence Clinton will win Utah.

“”Folks here realize that somebody like Donald Trump is incredibly dangerous and incredibly divisive, and they realize that that have a choice to make this election.  And some realize that someone like Secretary Clinton, she has a long track record of helping children, of helping families and I think that’s why I’m hopeful that folks out there in the state of Utah will help make the right decision and elect Secretary Clinton in November.”

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...