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For Ivory, it's on and then off again

Judge calls Workman note ambiguous; GOP appealing

Chief deputy county district attorney Karl Hendrickson said no further action is needed on Nancy Workman's note from her doctor declaring her "disabled" because the letter "speaks for itself." But on Wednesday, 3rd District Judge Stephen Henriod disagreed
Chief deputy county district attorney Karl Hendrickson said no further action is needed on Nancy Workman's note from her doctor declaring her "disabled" because the letter "speaks for itself." But on Wednesday, 3rd District Judge Stephen Henriod disagreed, saying the letter was ambiguous.
Ryan Galbraith/The Salt Lake Tribune/Pool

Ellis Ivory became the official Republican Salt Lake County mayoral candidate Wednesday — for about seven hours.

Capping an eventful day in the increasingly convoluted race, 3rd District Judge Stephen Henriod Wednesday afternoon reversed County Clerk Sherrie Swensen's action earlier in the day of certifying write-in candidate Ivory as the GOP candidate.

Henriod said a note from Nancy Workman's physician accompanying her official withdrawal from the race Oct. 12 was not clear enough to satisfy state law, which stipulates that she cannot be replaced on the ballot unless a physician certifies her as physically or mentally disabled.

"I find this letter to be ambiguous," Henriod said at the conclusion of a short hearing.

The order may be short-lived. The Utah Supreme Court will hear an appeal of Henriod's action at 11 a.m. today.

Early Wednesday, county Republican Party chairwoman Tiani Coleman filed papers with Swensen certifying Ivory as the GOP candidate after a Tuesday night vote by the party's Central Committee. At almost the same time, Ivory declared his candidacy — again.

As soon as the formalities were complete, the clerk's office workers put stickers on 513 absentee ballot booklets indicating Ivory as the GOP candidate.

After the court hearing a few hours later, county elections director Julio Garcia was on his cell phone, instructing those same workers to black out Ivory's name.

If the Supreme Court reverses Henriod's ruling, the workers will put another, identical sticker on top of the first to reinstate Ivory as the GOP candidate.

"I keep saying things can't get more bizarre, and then something else happens," Democratic mayoral candidate Peter Corroon said.

In a press conference Wednesday, shortly after a press conference where state Democratic chairman Donald Dunn and county party leader Nichole Adams announced that they had filed the lawsuit, Corroon criticized both parties for "political gamesmanship."

"This is a classic example of two wrongs don't make a right," he said.

Dunn, however, said a lawsuit was necessary to "ensure a fair election."

"Political parties and their candidates don't always agree," he said.

Dunn and Adams are in a curious position, opposing their own mayoral candidate, disagreeing with District Attorney David Yocom, a Democrat, and even suing a member of their own party — the lawsuit was brought against Swensen, also a Democrat.

During Wednesday's hearing, the issue boiled down to whether Dr. Philip Roberts properly described Workman as "disabled" in his letter.

In part, Roberts wrote that "the strain upon (Workman's) physical and emotional condition disables her from continuing as a political candidate without unreasonably compr(om)ising her health."

The Democrats have proposed that Roberts sign a certificate saying simply, "I certify that Nancy Workman is physically or mentally disabled."

"If you require them to comply with the statute — not just substantially comply, but comply — you don't have this political gamesmanship," attorney Scott Daniels said in the hearing.

Roberts has so far declined to sign the Democrats' version, and Workman attorney David Jordan has said several times that the mayor intends to take no further action.

Chief deputy county district attorney Karl Hendrickson said no further action is needed since the letter "speaks for itself."

"What we seem to be hearing is that there is a set of magic words," he said.

It's uncertain whether the votes cast Wednesday for Ivory — during the short time that he was the official GOP candidate — will count for him. Ivory himself can only wait on the final outcome.

"We started putting our signs up (indicating his new status) and then got word this afternoon, so it looks like we'll have to wait at least another day," he said.

As for independent mayoral candidate Merrill Cook, he pronounced himself "delighted" with the outcome.


E-mail: aedwards@desnews.com/I>