SALT LAKE CITY – A judge on Wednesday refused to let the Republican Party replace Salt Lake County's mayor, who is accused of misusing public funds, with a write-in candidate on the ballot.
On Oct. 12, Mayor Nancy Workman (search) had stepped aside as a candidate in the Nov. 2 election, citing the then-pending felony charges and her emotional health. But Judge Stephen Henriod said fellow Republican Ellis Ivory cannot take Workman's place on the ballot because the doctor's note she cited in claiming health problems was too ambiguous.
County Republicans had filed papers making Ivory the official GOP candidate Wednesday morning, but Democrats filed a lawsuit less than an hour later, questioning the validity of the note and whether Workman is actually disabled. They claim Workman's use of the note amounts to manipulation of Utah's election law to ensure a GOP victory by getting Ivory's name on the ballot.
County officials said they would appeal the decision, and with the general election just six days away, the Utah Supreme Court already set aside an hour Thursday for arguments in the case, suggesting the issue could be resolved in time for Election Day.
The note's legality was supported by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office, which recently said the letter meets Utah election code because state law doesn't account for what kind of medical certification is necessary for quitting a race.
"We think that the letter complied with the statutes and that we believed that the competence and the integrity of the doctor should be upheld," said county GOP Chairwoman Tiani Coleman.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Donald Dunn said the party would drop the lawsuit if either Workman or her lawyer signed a note saying that she was disabled.
Workman has been placed on paid administrative leave while she faces two charges of 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. Her trial was scheduled for February.
Workman pleaded not guilty Oct. 18. She has said the charges against her are politically motivated, and that the money was being used to help children.
Once Workman's legal problems emerged, Democrats had sniffed a chance for a rare victory in conservative Utah when their candidate, Peter Corroon, took a healthy lead in the polls over Workman and independent Merrill Cook.
Those prospects were jeopardized when Workman dropped out and Republicans rallied around Ivory, a popular businessman. But Corroon does not support his party's lawsuit, saying Wednesday, "It's up to the voters to decide who the candidates are."