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Big relief for Workman

'Stress was more than I imagined,' the mayor says

Nancy Workman
Nancy Workman
Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

Nancy Workman is sleeping nights now.

That may not seem like much until you consider that for a long time, the Salt Lake County mayor has been tossing and turning in bed, getting up, running things over in her mind. Stressful days, she says, have led into sleepless nights and back again.

Being faced with two felony charges and a doomed, ultimately pointless re-election campaign will do that to a person.

"The stress was more than I ever imagined," Workman said Friday in an interview with the Deseret Morning News. "My nerves were shot. It was affecting my family, everybody around me. . . . It just built up."

Until less than a week ago, Workman had vowed throughout the seemingly endless series of county controversies that she would fight on, that she wouldn't withdraw from the campaign, that she would see the thing through to the end despite dismal numbers in recent political polls.

This in the face of contrary advice from — oh, just about everybody: Democrats clamoring for her to withdraw, Republicans abandoning her and throwing their support behind write-in (and potential official Republican) candidate Ellis Ivory, and her own campaign advisers telling her to face the fact that it was over.

She didn't — and she paid — emotionally, mentally, physically. She was making regular visits to a 3rd District courtroom, she was seeing her name regularly pilloried in the media. She was struggling.

The final straw came when Workman went to her doctor, asking him for some pills to help her sleep.

"He said, 'What in the world are you doing? You're extremely stressed, your blood pressure is up. Why have you not called me before?' " Workman said.

In fact, Workman said, the physician had thought about contacting her himself several times, to the point of picking up the phone to call her.

Workman heard that and all of a sudden things came clear. That's it, she thought. It's too much. I'm out.

And now?

"I feel great. I'm sleeping. Finally."

Her withdrawal affected others, too. A week ago, Workman was a pariah in many circles, particularly the people who already were her political enemies. But her action, while not completely rehabilitating her reputation, certainly softened many people's attitudes about her.

"We wish her the best," several prominent Democrats said in a press conference Tuesday, the day she withdrew.

"I wish her the best," independent candidate and frequent critic Merrill Cook said.

"I think it's a good thing," campaign adviser Dave Owen said.

Seemingly the only people who did not support Workman's decision to withdraw were, interestingly, the people closest to her: husband Reed and daughter Aisza Wilde.

"Reed, he's furious," Workman said. "He's absolutely furious. He's seriously stressed out. He hates losing, and he looks on this as losing. He had this fight, fight, fight" attitude. As for Aisza, "she's mad, too. They understood, but they were furious.

Workman sighs. "Deep down, maybe it was selfish. I was so tired and stressed. Why kill yourself in a losing battle?"

Of course Workman's problems are far from over. She has a legal battle for which she has already plopped down $25,000 in legal fees fighting charges she misused public funds, and she is looking to spend at least that much again when the thing goes to trial.

She has mortgaged her house to pay the legal bills.

Should Workman win at trial, she will be eligible to have the county pay her legal tab. But if she loses, or if she works out a plea bargain — pleading guilty to a lesser charge — she'll have to pay up herself.

Workman estimates she will have about $100,000 in her campaign war chest when she's done closing up the campaign office and paying the bills, and said she might consider using that to help with the legal fees, which state law allows. But she's reluctant.

"Campaign funds are kind of sacred to me," she said. "People donated them to me for the campaign. At least I need to make sure I have all my bills paid for the campaign" before considering other uses for the money.

At least she doesn't have to worry about getting a trial before the election any more.

"I'm not in a hurry for a trial," she said. "It's not a burning issue now. But I need to get it done so I can go look for employment. This is not an inexpensive endeavor."