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Demos back candidate to fill Horiuchi's seat

The battle is now joined for Salt Lake County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi's seat.

In this corner we have Mike Reberg, associate director of the county Department of Public Works, who announced Wednesday that he's running.Reberg is, at least informally, the Democratic Party's candidate of choice for the position. He has a long list of endorsements from Democrats, including County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, Salt Lake City council members, state senators and representatives and Horiuchi himself, who has said he will not seek re-election.

So far, the 40-year-old Reberg is the sole Democrat seeking the office, and no prominent Democrat has made noises about challenging him.

In another corner we have commission chief of staff David Marshall, who has been endorsed by Commissioner Brent Overson and other prominent Republicans. He is generally considered the front-running Republican, though he has an intra-party challenger in the form of West Valley City Councilwoman Margaret Peterson.

Reberg says his primary focus will be to get rid of the bickering in county government, much of which has spilled over into lawsuits. He staged his announcement in front of the Utah Supreme Court chambers to make the point.

"For residents of Salt Lake County, a courtroom has come to represent failed leadership and county government's home away from home," he said. "Over the past 3 1/2 years, it seems our county elected leaders have spent more time in the judges' chambers than in the commission chambers."

Reberg focused on the dispute between commissioners and County Attorney Doug Short as particularly destructive and expensive (Short himself has left open the possibility of running for commissioner).

Here are Reberg's stands on a few other issues:

- He wants to preserve county residents' quality of life by, among other things, requiring open space in every new development. He wants to revamp and update the master plan for Salt Lake's canyons and would seek to undo the commission's recent decision to loosen restrictions on billboards.

- In traditional Democratic fashion, Reberg favors scaling back redevelopment projects given the already robust state of the economy. He also likes the DARE program, which he believes is worth the cost in order to provide a better classroom environment.

- He has ideas regarding issue No. 1 in Salt Lake County nowadays: transportation. He favors, for example, portable speed bumps to slow down displaced commuters.

- Reberg wants to take planning down to more local levels by establishing regional planning commissions within the county in addition to the current two. He has not taken a strong stand either way on changing the form of county government, contenting himself with taking it to the voters.

Born in Austin, Texas, Reberg is a 28-year Utah resident. A graduate of Utah State University in public policy, he has been a journalist, commissioner executive assistant and president of the housing group Habitat for Humanity. He has been active in Democratic Party politics as campaign manager for former county Commissioner Dave Watson and a member of the state Democratic Party's executive committee.

Reberg's wife, Leslie, is vice chairwoman of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party and is Horiuchi's executive assistant. They have one daughter.