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Mayor’s options for race are nuts

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You'd have to be nuts to pull out of the race for Salt Lake County mayor at this point.

Well, either that or suddenly physically disabled.

State law says the only way for a political party's central committee to replace someone on a ballot is for that candidate to resign "because of becoming physically or mentally disabled as certified by a physician." Merely being charged with two felony counts of misusing public funds isn't enough.

Frankly, neither option is terribly attractive, which must be driving incumbent Nancy Workman . . . well, crazy.

It's driving a lot of Republican operatives crazy, as well, which is why, less than a month until Election Day, the race for county mayor is beginning to resemble something that seems more fitting under a big tent with three rings in the middle.

Actually, make that four rings. As I write this (deadlines being what they are, this page goes to press Friday night), there are now three Republicans, or pseudo-Republicans, in the race. Workman is one. She won her party's nomination this year before being charged in connection with giving public money to the Boys and Girls Club. Merrill Cook is another. He's running as an independent, but he likes to tell everyone — including the Deseret Morning News Editorial Board — that he is the real Republican in the race. He just can't get all the pretenders in the party to go along.

And now, longtime developer and Republican Ellis Ivory has launched a write-in campaign, and the Republican Central Committee has officially withdrawn its support for Workman and given it to him. Workman, however, still will be the only name with "Republican" next to it on the ballot.

It doesn't take a mathematical genius to figure out what is likely to happen. The Democratic candidate, Peter Corroon, must be starting to feel like that Australian speed-skater who waltzed over the finish line at the Salt Lake Olympics after all in front of him fell on top of each other.

And it's all because Utah has a ridiculous law governing candidate withdrawals. Well, almost all.

Workman still could leave the race at any time without having to certify herself as nuts. (There is an outside chance she may have done so by the time you read this.) In fact, some might call such a thing evidence of her sanity. So far, she has said she won't. In a meeting with our editorial board, however, Workman did say she might have considered withdrawing earlier if the party could have replaced her without the doctor's note.

This isn't the first time we have faced this situation. Back in 1988, I was a reporter covering the County Commission office (we had three commissioners back then, not a mayor and nine-member council). Commissioner Dave Watson was arrested and pleaded guilty to drunken driving, attempted possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was in the middle of a re-election campaign at the time.

It didn't take too much pressure from the party to persuade Watson to take one for the team. He swallowed hard and submitted to an exam that found — surprise! — he had a stress-related mental disorder that might become life-threatening if he stayed in the race.

Watson, who has since tragically passed on, was already finished politically. But it was downright cruel to make him certify to the world that he had a mental disorder. I interviewed him regularly up to the time he left office, and there was nothing wrong with his mind.

But then, he was a Democrat, and few people in the GOP-controlled Legislature felt a need to change the law.

This year ought to convince people otherwise. It isn't rational to narrow a political party's options that way. It also encourages dishonesty. Why not amend the law to allow a replacement candidate in the event someone is charged with a crime?

To be fair, Workman does have two other honorable options. One of them — death — is definitely not one I'd recommend. But the other one is interesting. She could resign to "become a candidate for president or vice president of the United States."

Sure. Why be satisfied running Salt Lake County when you could rule the Free World?

Is that nuts, or what?

Jay Evensen is editor of the Deseret Morning News editorial page. E-mail: even@desnews.com