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Keith McCord ReportingWhile all the attention for the Democratic presidential race is focused back east in New Hampshire this week, party members in Utah are gearing up for their primary. In fact, representatives for the candidates met today to finalize the ballot.
On February 24th, about a month from now the democratic primary selects the delegates that will go to the national convention this summer. To prepare for that, party leaders met with the campaigns to decide which names will appear in what order on the ballot.
There's nothing scientific or high tech about deciding on how to place the candidates’ names on the Utah Democratic Party Ballot. Representatives from each of the campaigns drew a number out of a cardboard box.
Wesley Clark gets the number 1 spot. Howard Dean is second, Dennis Kucinich third, John Edwards fourth and John Kerry gets the fifth spot.
The Democratic Party of Utah is excited about this year's primary because it's being held earlier. Four years ago, the primary was in March, following Super Tuesday, and by then Al Gore was already the guy. Party Chairman Donald Dunn says moving the date ahead, gives the voters incentive to get involved.
Donald Dunn, Chmn. Utah Democrats: "This primary is happening at a critical time. It's still a horserace, only 24 percent of the delegates will have been selected. So every vote does matter for a democrat to be the nominee. So this is a primary that can make a difference."
Party leaders also hope that the earlier primary will draw some of the candidates to Utah. Dennis Kucinich already has plans to be here in a couple of weeks; John Kerry and Howard Dean made stops last year. Others haven't announced plans yet.
Chris Judd, Clark for President Campaign: "I think it's important that a primary still takes place. And I am glad that the democratic party stepped in to organize and fund a democratic primary in this state."
The Utah Democrats will spend 30 to 40-thousand dollars to put this primary on--money party leaders say will be well spent, especially if several of the candidates show up.
This primary is an "open" primary; republicans can also participate.