SOCIALIST PARTY OF UTAH

Socialist Party locals were organized in various cities in Utah in 1901. The party grew out of the Utah Social Democratic party, which ran candidates in 1898 and 1900. In addition, many leading Utah socialists, including Henry W. Lawrence, Kate S. Hilliard, Warren Foster, were populists who came to socialism when the Populist party declined in the late 1890s.

Between 1900 and 1923 some 100 socialists were elected to a variety of offices throughout Utah. The party was particularly strong in Eureka, Murray, Salt Lake City, and Ogden; Utah was one of only eighteen states to have socialist representation in its legislature. Utah Socialists enjoyed their greatest influence in Eureka, where they dominated city politics between 1903 and 1923. Once in office, Eureka socialists tended to support a wide range of municipal reforms.

The nature of the Socialist party in Utah closely approximated that of the party nationally. It was an umbrella party that appealed to a wide constituency. The party was predominantly composed of males, married and native-born, and its diverse membership included educators, clergy, white-collar workers, small-business people, and farmers combined with a strong working-class base of skilled and semi-skilled workers. One of every eight Utah socialists worked in mining, and the party had great support in the mining areas of the state. Mormons comprised approximately 40 percent of the Utah Socialist party membership. In addition, the party had the support of several different publications in the state, the most prominent of which was the Intermountain Worker, which had a circulation of 5,000 at its highest point.

From 1911 to 1913 the Utah Socialist party was endorsed by the Utah State Federation of Labor. As was the case nationally, the party reached a high point of influence in the period before World War I, and then declined dramatically. In 1920 Utah socialists allied with the newly formed Farmer-Labor party (whose presidential candidate was Utah lawyer Parley P. Christensen), running joint tickets for various offices. This alliance continued in 1922, and two years later Utah socialists endorsed the independent presidential candidacy of Robert LaFollette.

After a brief revival during the Great Depression, votes and party membership declined, though pockets of support existed in Salt Lake City, Ogden, and a handful of other locations. From the mid-1930s until the early 1950s, the dominant force in Utah socialism was O.A. Kennedy, an Ogden insurance salesman who first affiliated with the party in 1912. Kennedy served as the Socialist party's Rocky Mountain district organizer during the 1920s and 1930s. The Socialist party returned to the Utah ballot in 1988 when its presidential ticket of Willa Kenoyer and Ron Ehrenreich was listed on the ballot as independent.

John Sillitoe