A 12-year-old Mormon in ultra-conservative Utah County supported gay marriage. A quarter-century ago. Now, he’s an education administrator and running for Orrin Hatch’s U.S. Senate seat

by Rhett Wilkinson

Danny Drew was bullied as a child.

More than a quarter-century ago in what was perhaps the most conservative county of perhaps the most conservative state, Drew held an opinion on an issue that put him “in an extreme minority,” as he said, one that hadn’t even yet arrived in the American consciousness, that wouldn’t even see a legal precedent for another decade.

As Democrats, Drew’s Mormon family already had perspectives that totally opposed the culture and community in which they lived, in Provo, Utah, the home of Brigham Young University, one of the most conservative higher education institutions in America. Then, Drew’s fellow religious congregants told him that he should be excommunicated for his viewpoints — yet while Drew was preparing to proselyte for the Latter-day Saint church.

And the bullying was consistent throughout his formative years, Drew explained after requesting an interview.

But that 12-year-old had done a whole lot of soul-searching, prayer and research on gay marriage. So back in 1991, fully 26 years before Obergefell v. Hodges changed the American landscape in legalizing same-sex marriage nationally, that 12-year-old decided that he favored it. He did so as a member of a religion whose leaders, regarded as prophets, have until only recently preached in that capacity to oppose gay marriage politically.

Later, he saw that two “sisters” in the congregation he attended had adopted African-American kids, to take care of them. But they didn’t get any help from the government.

“That’s wrong — that does not make sense,” Drew remembered thinking. “If you are living together for the benefit of children…”

Today, Drew is an education administrator running for Orrin Hatch’s U.S. Senate seat.

‘There are only two people… who can beat Orrin Hatch’

Drew did his dissertation for his doctorate in school administration on education reform. Currently, he is the director of adult education for Utah’s Duchesne County School District, where he has catalyzed the increasing of graduation rates in his school district by 400 percent in just two years. Schools he works with includes one in the county jail and four high schools.

His proficiency in his profession is why Drew puts himself in his own exclusive category.

“There are only two people in the state who can beat Orrin Hatch and I’m one of those two,” Drew said. “You need someone who understands and works with the government now, as I do, and you need someone who has worked with reform… and I’ve done that.”

The second person Drew thinks could beat Hatch is Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
In his position, Drew works with entities including the Duchesne County Jail and a native tribe. At a Heber, Utah junior high school, he increased the pass rate of a depth-of-knowledge test from 50 to 100 percent. Overall, Drew has 14 years of experience in public education.

Getting political

Drew has made seven videos, which are posted on Facebook, featuring quotes that Hatch used while campaigning in 1976 that Drew says apply to the 40-year senator. One of them was Hatch’s infamous slogan “you call him home” as the answer to the question “What do you call a senator who’s served in office for 18 years?” Hatch, now 83, used it against Frank Moss.

“(Hatch) is now the epitomize of what he complained about in 1976,” Drew said, “and that was still a few years before I was born.”

Drew’s grandfather Dr. Maurice Marchant was a professor at BYU in library science and the Utah County Democratic Party chairman in the 1980s and 90s. His great-grandmother Beatrice Marchant was a state legislator. Young Democrats groups are usually for college-aged folks at the youngest, but Drew started one for his Timpview High School as a senior in 1996–97. He even worked then on former U.S. Rep. Bill Orton’s campaign for a fourth term.

Not betting on Betsy

Drew has issues with Betsy DeVos, the U.S. education secretary who was nominated by Trump though she did not have any experience in public education. Drew pointed out that if Hatch wasn’t in office, a ‘no’ vote could have been cast regarding the Senate confirmation of DeVos and she wouldn’t be in power. But the vote was a tie, leading to her nomination, as Vice President Mike Pence favored her, as expected.

Drew’s son needed unique schooling opportunities, but private schools were not affordable. Drew was upset when DeVos, in her Senate confirmation hearings, didn’t know what the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was.

Drew also scoffed at DeVos’ argument that teachers need guns to defend classrooms from grizzly bears.

“This is what you get in someone who has given millions of dollars to one party,” he said.

The DeVos family has given an estimated $200 million to the Republican party.

Getting philosophical

Drew further described his being a Democrat through mentioning Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theoretical proposal from psychologist Abraham Maslow concerning human behavior in terms of basic requirements for survival and growth.

“If you can meet basic needs — not handouts, but basic needs — I really believe that’s the way a society should be and I guess that’s why I’m an educator,” Drew said. “We should be doing everything we can to help all of society. It’s about when we help the least of these — a homeless person get a place to stay, a job.”

Drew said he has also been bullied as an adult for his political beliefs — people with whom he has attended church have him “immoral” for being a teacher.

The opposition left him with a choice, Drew said — “fold or research things for myself.”

“I’m a stronger Democrat because of that,” he said.

By the time he came to his gay marriage decision at an age when a Jewish male still couldn’t have had a Bar Mitzvah, he was being taught by a family of teachers, which included Marchant, an “FDR Democrat” who, like Marchant’s wife, grew up during the Great Depression, to be a “thinker.”

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