Politics

Fire at Will: Utah Democratic Party executive chair Diane Lewis

UTAH – In this informative and reoccurring series I will be conversing and partaking in insightful discussions with various elected officials and important people in the state of Utah. Through these conversations, I intend to explore the core of their roles, shedding light on the significant responsibilities and duties that come with public office.

Throughout this series, we will also delve into their viewpoints on critical issues affecting their constituents and the efforts they have made to address these concerns and promote advancement within their communities.

This week’s edition consists of a conversation with Diane Lewis, executive chair of the Utah Democratic Party.

Lewis was born in Illinois but moved to California and she was raised in the greater Los Angeles area. Lewis moved to Utah in 1999 when her granddaughter was born, residing in West Jordan.

In Utah, Lewis started working for the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), specifically Labor Local 295, a construction workers union. Lewis would work as a dispatcher for several years, and she would eventually become the first woman to be elected as a secretary-treasurer for a labor union in the state of Utah.

Lewis would work as the union’s secretary-treasurer for 11 years, and between that and her time as a dispatcher, Lewis spent over 20 years working for LIUNA. During her time as the secretary-treasurer, Lewis was responsible for financial records and reports and made sure the union spent its money wisely and efficiently.

In 2021, Lewis was planning on retiring, but she was asked to consider running for the vice chair position of the Utah Democratic Party. Lewis eventually decided to run for the position and won the election. Lewis took on the interim Chair position during her initial tenure as Vice Chair when the Executive Chairman needed to step aside because of health concerns.

Lewis decided to run again, and in the 2023 Democratic convention, she was elected to serve her first full term as the executive chair.

All leadership positions are elected by state delegates, and all elected positions serve on a part-time basis for two-year terms.

Lewis’s tenure in the union helped prepare her for her role in the Utah Democratic Party, as the structure of the union and the party have several similarities.

“The union works in that all members are represented by an executive board, and that’s the way the party works as well,” Lewis said. “In the party, we have a chair, vice chair, secretary, and treasurer, same as the union. There’s the same structure of the union and the Democratic Party.”

“You’re representing working people in the union, and you’re representing people that are members of your local, and the Democratic Party is the same type of thing. Except in the Democratic Party, it’s all volunteers, your voters, candidates, volunteers, and delegates. The chair and executive committee represent all Utah Democrats, similar to how the union represents the workers.”

As the executive chair of the party, Lewis serves as a spokesperson for all Utah Democratic voters, candidates, and delegates, one of her main responsibilities of the role along with managing the party’s staff, budget, and strategy.

“My main role is to manage the staff, along with being the face of the party and speaking for the party. My role is very wide because it’s a volunteer position, and I’m lucky enough to be retired to where I can take the time,” Lewis explained. “I can go and visit these counties and hear what they need, and then we can we can strategize and come up with ideas and I can help them with some of their wants and needs.”

Another one of Lewis’ main roles is to abide by the party’s budget, as well as fundraise for the party.

“Of course, I have to bring everything back to make sure the budget is being stood by. A big part of my my role is to fundraise for the party, because we are strictly a nonprofit, so the only way we get money is by fundraising.”

As the Chair, Lewis is a member of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), as all state chairs and vice chairs are members. Lewis attends DNC conferences and ensures that the state party abides by all DNC rules and guidelines.

As chair, Lewis has made it a priority of the party to be accessible and open to anyone, as well as try to have more Democrats elected.

“The Democrats are an open party. We welcome anybody, even if you’re a registered Republican, Independent libertarian, whatever, You can absolutely be a delegate of ours, and you come to our events,” Lewis said. “We do the work and our business is to get Democrats elected. That is our main goal is to get more Democrats. We strategize to see how we can do it, and we have data to find out in which districts we could possibly win.”

“There is a program that it’s a wonderful data program, where we we look at voters that have voted in years past, and we’ll be looking at let’s say the Sandy district. We’ll look to see how the voters there vote for Biden. Did they vote for Biden? Did they win it?” Lewis explained. “Then we look at that data and say, you know what a democratic person could probably win there in a state race.”

Lewis and the party have been focusing on municipal elections this year, and have been working to put Democrats on the ballot.

“When you have these nonpartisan municipal races, the state party has worked super, super hard, along with the county parties, to get candidates to run for these municipal races,” Lewis said. “This year, it’s pretty exciting because we have over 100 Democrats running for municipal races across the state in Utah.”

“That’s our base, and that’s how people build a relationship with the party. People get to know you as the candidate, and it’s not going to be as hard to just vote Republican all the way or Democrat all the way because you get to talk to the person and get to know the person that represents you.”

In the upcoming Utah legislative session, Lewis will be focusing on supporting the fourteen members of the House and the six senators affiliated with the Democratic Party.

“Our role isn’t to do policy, or to run battles, but it is more to support our legislators. We will be there every day, and our legislative director will be there every day to support them and get the word out about what our Democrats are doing and how important the Democratic legislators are, and the work that they do for the people of Utah.”

Lewis and the party are also working to support candidates in the upcoming election cycle, most notably in the Congressional special election for Congressman Chris Stewart’s seat.

“We can do help and in a lot of times when we work with them, we work in kind of different ways that you don’t realize, kind of behind the scenes more or less. I think we have a wonderful candidate this year in Senator Kathleen Riebe, and she has been doing amazing work across the state. She’s been going and meeting with county parties, having town hall meetings across the district.”

Also looking ahead to 2024, Lewis is attempting to have a Democrat on the ballot for every state house and senate election.

“Right now our goals are to get Democrats in every seat, every house district across the state, and get them to run for a house seat. We want a Democrat on the ballot so that people have someone locally to vote for,” Lewis said. “We are working already to get a Democrat on the ballot in every house seat across the state. Same thing with the Senate.”

Lewis understands that Utah is an extremely red state, but is still hopeful about the party’s future.

“A win doesn’t necessarily mean that we won the seat, a win could mean change. Let’s say that the Democrat that ran got 35% of the votes. Well, this year, a win to us is that we got 40% of the votes,” Lewis said. “Because that will change in each one of the counties. That total could add up to winning the governor’s race because it’s a statewide race.”

“That’s how some of these states like Colorado turned from a 50-year red state to now a pretty blue state, are small incremental wins. It’s gonna be a slow turn, but we can do it.”

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