Utah Democrats unveil new caucus just in time for LDS conference
Politics • Group's goal is to help Mormons feel welcome in the Democratic Party.
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Murray • Utah Democrats on Saturday unveiled an effort to establish a new caucus for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

More than 100 gathered in Murray Park for a pre-LDS General Conference breakfast to hear more about the creation of the LDS Dems caucus within the Utah Democratic Party. The effort includes Saturday's launch of the ldsdems.org website.

The party's central committee is scheduled to vote Oct. 15 on the caucus application. The party has 15 caucuses, including those for women, educators, Latinos, African-Americans, military families and others. The newest caucus is designed in part to make members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feel more welcome within the Democratic Party, organizers say.

The formation of the LDS Dems Caucus in Republican- and Mormon-dominated Utah is designed to send the message that "it's OK to be a Democrat and a Mormon," said Crystal Young-Otterstrom, the caucus' interim vice chairwoman.

Craig Janis of Pleasant Grove, who is LDS, said he joined the Democratic Party after he returned home from a mission to Brazil in 2005. He supports the idea of LDS Dems. "A lot of people in Utah seem to think that being a Mormon means being a Republican," he said. "We want people to see there is more than one right way to be a Mormon politically."

Pamela and Gaylen Nebeker of Holladay also are Mormon Democrats. "It's definitely time for this," Gaylen Nebeker said. He said even though he's a member of the LDS Church, "my values align much more with the Democrats."

The caucus will focus on issues such as education, environmental quality and immigration as well as one of the LDS Church's chief missions — service to those in need.

Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said he believes an LDS caucus can be successful in Utah. "We have a significant amount of common ground with people in this state," he said.

Democratic Party chairmain Jim Dabakis said the creation of the LDS caucus is a matter of common sense. "We can't win" without reaching out to the LDS, he said.

lesley@sltrib.com