Merrill Cook, an independent candidate for Salt Lake County mayor, is playing the abortion card to keep write-in candidate Ellis Ivory off the ballot.
Certifying Ivory would be "using the same fundamental arguments and tactics used by the partial-birth abortion advocates," Cook said in a speech to supporters Wednesday night and in a letter delivered to state Republican Party headquarters Thursday.
Making Ivory the GOP candidate just because a doctor has said incumbent mayor Nancy Workman is disabled invokes the "psychological stress argument abortion-rights congressmen often used against me and other pro-life congressmen in rejecting our attempt to ban partial-birth abortions," Cook said.
"Acknowledging psychological stress is one thing, but using that to justify a partial-birth abortion is wrong," he said. "I fully acknowledge Nancy Workman's psychological stress and her decision to leave the campaign for that reason, (but) her psychological stress does not rise to the level of a mental disability." State law requires that a candidate be medically diagnosed as "physically or mentally disabled" in order to bow out of a race.
Ivory said he "had nothing to do with Nancy Workman's decision." Regarding Cook's abortion comparison, he said, "I trust the voters of Salt Lake County will be the ones to react on Nov. 2."
The Salt Lake County Republican Central Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday to determine whether to certify Ivory as its candidate to replace Workman, who withdrew last week. In a separate attempt, party leaders are trying to get Ivory on the ballot even before the meeting.
Cook maintains that "the plot to claim" Workman is disabled is "the biggest whopper of a lie ever foisted on the people of Salt Lake County during an election."
He and Democratic Party leaders have pointed to Workman's own statements in previous week: "I can't lie about my physical or mental capacity, and I wouldn't ask a doctor to fib."
State Democratic Party chairman Donald Dunn said attorneys for the party — led by former state representative Scott Daniels — are preparing a lawsuit that may be filed by the end of the week challenging any certification of Ivory as the GOP candidate on that basis.
County GOP chairwoman Tiani Coleman responded Thursday to the Democrats' request that Workman's physician sign a "disabled" certification of their own drafting, even though county attorneys have concluded that the original physician's note would satisfy the statutory requirements.
"Your letter appears to address an issue that has been resolved," Coleman wrote.