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Enid Greene back in the public eye

Former member of Congress running for GOP vice chair

Former U.S. Congresswoman Enid Greene will have her name on a ballot again — although this time it will be for state Republican Party vice chairwoman at next month's state convention.

Greene, 44, left her 2nd Congressional District seat in 1996 after a national campaign finance scandal perpetrated by her former husband, Joe Waldholtz. She has been recently rumored to be interested in a number of public offices, including the Salt Lake County Council and mayorship. But she never filed for office.

Greene said her new party candidacy "should not be read" as preparation for future runs at public office.

"Anyone who knows me knows I've always been interested in politics. I want to strengthen the state party. This does not mean I'd run for higher office some day. I take my life six months at a time, and now I just want to be party vice chair," she said Tuesday.

Greene has been the appointed chairwoman of some state and Salt Lake County party committees and conventions the past several years. But she's kept a rather low profile since the scandal. The Aug. 23 state GOP convention at Salt Lake Community College will be the first time Greene has put herself forward as a candidate in nine years.

"F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong: there are second chances in politics," said Meg Holbrook, state Democratic Party chairwoman. "Enid is a very bright, talented woman. And Utahns are very forgiving. If George Bush can give up drinking, Enid can run for office again. But I don't know if she could win."

Party leaders are selected in off-year conventions to serve two-year terms. While all 3,500 state party delegates can vote on party leaders, probably only 2,000 will show up at the convention in three weeks, state party chairman Joe Cannon predicted.

Cannon seeks a second, two-year term as state party chairman. Cannon is a former U.S. Senate candidate; brother to 3rd District Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah; a top official at Geneva Steel; and a Deseret Morning News board member.

Cannon will be challenged for the top party post by three men: Drew Chamberlain, Tom Clay and Ron Levine.

Running against Greene for vice chairman is Frank Guliuzza, current vice chairman, and Mark Towner.

"I'd like to know why (Enid) didn't run for party chair. Republicans have never elected a woman state chair," Holbrook said.

Greene maintained her innocence throughout the 1995-96 scandal that drove her from office. She was never charged with a crime, while Waldholtz, whom she divorced during the scandal, served nearly two years in a federal prison on bank, tax and campaign finance fraud charges.

However, Greene, her official campaign committees and her father, Forrest Greene, agreed to pay in total $100,000 in civil fines levied by the Federal Election Commission in 1999 over the troubles. At that time, Todd Taylor, state Democratic Party executive director, said the fines show "Enid was guilty on four counts" of violating FEC rules and "it's clear that she perpetrated a fraud on the Utah electorate."

Basically, Waldholtz and Greene accepted more than $1 million from Forrest Greene which was placed into Greene's successful 1994 U.S. House campaign. Greene maintained that she believed such a "trade of assets" — as she termed it — were legal under FEC rules and that Waldholtz, her campaign treasurer, lied to her in perpetrating the fraud.

Democrats and others, however, claimed that Greene, a savvy lawyer, just turned a blind eye to Waldholtz's double-dealing, driven in her personal ambition to win the office she narrowly lost in the 1992 election.

Greene, with the aid of her father's money, unseated Democratic Rep. Karen Shepherd in a tough, three-way 1994 race that saw then-independent Merrill Cook finish third. When the scandal broke, Cook said Greene should resign. She did not. Cook rejoined the Republican Party, sought and won the seat Greene vacated by her retirement in 1996.

Greene then divorced Waldholtz and returned to Utah, where she worked for a while as an attorney before retiring from law practice to take care of the couple's young daughter, Elizabeth. Greene, who currently heads her family's foundation, said she now has time to manage more things in her life "and I can serve in a party position."

This summer Waldholtz, paroled on his original fraud convictions years ago, awaits trial in Pennsylvania on a new round of fraud complaints centered on his handling of finances for his late father, stepmother and his brother.

While not endorsing Greene's candidacy, Cannon said he's pleased "people of her caliber, given her history, are still willing to be active in the party." Cannon said he doesn't expect Greene will have much trouble wooing delegates — "several times in the past they've shown they love her."

"I still believe Enid has a future in elective politics in Utah," Cannon said.

Are Utahns ready and willing to forgive Greene? "I don't think there is much to forgive," Cannon said. "She made a disaster personal choice" in trusting and marrying Waldholtz, he added. "That does not affect her political skills. Many people, and not just in Utah, believed she could have been the first woman U.S. House speaker; she was definitely on the fast track to leadership back there."