Embattled Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman will get out of the mayor's race today, her top campaign aide says, using the legal escape hatch of a physician's note.
The doctor's note may allow the Salt Lake County Republican Party to replace her on the ballot with a new GOP candidate. It could also land the Republican Party, the state or Salt Lake County, or all three in court — adding another twist to the already bizarre county mayor's race this year.
A doctor's excuse meets the state law's requirement for replacing a candidate and allows local developer Ellis Ivory, who announced his write-in candidacy just a week ago, to officially become the GOP's mayoral candidate and get his name on the Nov. 2 ballot. That would greatly enhance Ivory's chances and harm the candidacies of other challengers for the county mayor's office.
On Oct. 5, the day of Ivory's announcement, the Salt Lake County GOP central committee removed its endorsement of Workman — on a paid leave of absence after being charged with two felonies for misuse of public funds — and endorsed Ivory, a longtime Republican.
Workman is accused of using county money for the South Valley Boys and Girls Clubs, where her daughter worked.
A Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll conducted last week by pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that Ivory already had 32 percent support compared to Democrat Peter Corroon's 34 percent support and independent Merrill Cook's 6 percent support.
Workman campaign consultant Dave Owen said Monday night that the "toll on the mayor and her family" brought her to this decision. Appropriate papers will be filed today with County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, Owen said.
"We want the mayor completely out of all of this" so she can concentrate on her criminal defense, Owen added. If her getting out with a doctor's note "opens the door" for a new GOP candidate to be listed on the ballot, "so be it — it has nothing to do with us."
Workman has hired local attorney David Jordan as her civil attorney should Corroon, Cook or anyone else try to sue Workman to stop her from removing her name from the ballot, Owen said.
Corroon and Cook have both threatened a lawsuit should Workman, following state law, seek a doctor's note that says she is unable to continue her campaign because of a physical or mental disability.
In a letter hand-delivered to Workman's house a month ago, Cook stated that leaving for medical reasons would be "absolutely fraudulent" and "a highly manipulative and cynical move that would likely spew more venom into an already poisonous atmosphere."
Just two weeks ago, Workman told the Deseret Morning News Editorial Board that she would not seek such a doctor's note. She said she was not physically or mentally disabled and it would be wrong for her to claim she was.
But Owen said the strain on Workman the past two weeks — with Ivory getting in the race, the county party abandoning her, polls showing her trailing badly and especially her arraignment two weeks ago that came with the realization "that she cannot get to trial and be acquitted" before the Nov. 2 election — all added to a decision "she did not want to make."
Workman was not available for comment Monday night.
In a prepared statement given to the newspaper, she said: "My doctor has strongly advised that, in his opinion, with the extraordinary stress of the ongoing prosecution, I cannot continue a political campaign without unreasonably compromising my health. Recognizing the toll, I have decided to heed his advice."
Workman went on to say it is a "terrible thing to be wrongly accused. . . . I must now focus on a successful defense against false accusations."
She said even as late as last week she intended to keep her name on the Nov. 2 ballot. "But in the end, family and health must come first."
In her statement she thanked all the friends and supporters who have stood by her and said she was sorry that all the problems have temporarily overshadowed the good things that have been accomplished in the county over her last four years in office and all the good work done by dedicated county employees.
Workman's announcement will no doubt bring a new flurry of activity — politically and perhaps legally.
Swensen previously told the Deseret Morning News that she wouldn't challenge the validity of any doctor's statement on Workman's ability to continue in the race, beyond certifying that the signer of the letter really is a licensed physician.
If someone does sue over Workman's exit, it would then be up to a judge to decide if a new GOP candidate can be on the general election ballot.
Since the county GOP central committee has already endorsed Ivory, it is likely the same body would attempt to certify Ivory to the ballot, although other GOP candidates could apply to the party.
Swensen said previously that, depending on how close to Nov. 2 a candidate is replaced, various actions could be taken.
Since the ballot cards for the county's punch-card machines have already been printed with Workman's name on them, a sticker with the new GOP nominee could be placed over her name. Voters would then clearly know they are voting for the new Republican nominee, not Workman.
However, the county has had absentee balloting going on for several weeks, Swensen said last week.
Hundreds of ballots have been cast, with some voters no doubt punching Workman's name, she said.
If Workman simply told Swensen she was getting out of the race, and not handing in a doctor's note, then no ballots would be counted for Workman. The GOP mayoral slot would be empty, and Ivory's write-in ballots would have been counted accordingly, Swensen explained.
But with a new GOP nominee on the ballot, what is to be done with the ballots already cast for Workman? asked Swensen.
"I'd have to seek a legal opinion on what to do with them," Swensen said last week. "Can we count them for the (new) Republican candidate? They wanted to vote for a Republican, perhaps. But of course the new name was not on the (absentee) ballot."