SALT LAKE CITY – County Mayor Nancy Workman (search), facing criminal charges of misspending taxpayer money, announced she was withdrawing from the Nov. 2 election.
"My doctor has strongly advised that, in his opinion, with the extraordinary stress of the ongoing prosecution, I cannot continue a political campaign without unreasonably compromising my health," the first-term Republican mayor said in a statement provided to the Deseret Morning News, which published it Tuesday.
Her campaign consultant Dave Owen said she would use a provision of Utah law allowing candidates to remove themselves from a ballot because of a medical disability.
"We want the mayor completely out of all of this" so she can focus on her criminal defense, Owen said.
Workman has been placed on paid administrative leave while she faces two felony charges for allegedly taking $17,000 in health department funds to place a bookkeeper at a boys and girls club where her daughter was a top financial officer.
Democratic mayoral candidate Peter Corroon (search), who has become the front-runner since Workman was charged Sept. 7, said he was surprised and disappointed.
"The mayor said all along that she'd stay in the race," Corroon told The Salt Lake Tribune. "Politics should be about one's word."
The Republican Party last week withdrew its support of the mayor and instead endorsing a write-in candidate, land developer Ellis Ivory, 64, who said Workman didn't have a chance to win while she faces criminal charges. Yet Ivory said Monday he was in "total shock" by Workman's decision.
Independent candidate Merrill Cook, a former Republican congressman, also is running.
Republicans were worried that Workman would split the conservative vote. Workman hired an attorney to fight any legal effort by the Democrat or independent candidates to keep her on the ballot in the four-way race.
After she was charged, Workman said she had made mistakes, but they had not personally benefited her or her family and shouldn't be considered crimes. "I was doing what I believed — and continue to believe — was right," she said.
Salt Lake County accounts for about 40 percent of Utah's population; more than 300,000 county residents are expected to cast ballots.