Dave Watson is resisting calls to resign from the Salt Lake County Commission, contending he is not a drug addict or an alcoholic and that he needs to provide for his family.
Watson, the lone Democrat on the commission, said Tuesday his arrest May 15 on suspicion of drunken driving and possession of cocaine means he will be gone from public life for a long time after his term ends.If Republicans and others calling for his resignation want to "dance in my blood," they will have nothing to gain, he said.
"I think I've paid a pretty heavy penalty for a foolish mistake," he said in an interview at his commission office. He came to work Tuesday for the first time since last Wednesday.
"It's very important for my son to eat. I'm not going to put my family in jeopardy."
The public is tired of hearing of his mistake and wants him to "get on with his life," Watson said. "I think it's getting beyond the point where it's even fun to gossip about it."
Watson has yet to enter a plea on charges he was driving under the influence of alcohol when he was stopped by South Salt Lake police officers early in the morning. No charges have yet been filed in connection with a substance believed to be cocaine that officers found on Watson.
Watson dropped out of the race for re-election late last week, presenting evidence from a doctor that the stress of the race was leading to a mental disorder. State law prohibits candidates from being replaced after the filing deadline unless they can show they are mentally or physically unable to continue, among other things.
Watson said the stress came solely from the campaign, not from his daily duties as a commissioner. He was distressed by early opinion polls that showed him trailing Republican challenger M. Tom Shimizu.
"It was hard. I had made a concerted effort to have a decent profile," he said. "It was very difficult for me to even look at those polls and see that people hadn't even noticed I'd made a difference. I probably got too caught up in my ego. That didn't do good things for me."
Watson's replacement in the race, Riverton Mayor Dale
Gardiner, has urged him to resign to make things easier on all Democratic candidates. Watson also has received some pressure from groups fighting alcohol and drug abuse, and the two Republican commissioners have called for him to resign.
But State Democratic Chairman Randy Horiuchi, a close friend of Watson, said Tuesday he supports the decision to stay.
"The campaign was obviously the stressful thing," he said. "I've always worried about campaign times. They are the most intense times on Earth."
Without the stress of a campaign, Watson said Friday, he can be a better commissioner.
"I don't want to minimize the foolishness of what I did," he said. "But no one complained about my judgment before I was stupid.
"Apparently, even if I was a drug-crazed alcoholic, as people want to believe, I was making good decisions."
Because he is no longer seeking re-election, he can make decisions without having to worry about his public popularity, Watson said.
"I'm probably the least political official now in the state of Utah," he said.
It is unlikely Republicans will let Watson remain without constant criticism.