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Utah Supreme Court reinstates Ellis Ivory to the ballot

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The Utah Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a judge's ruling in the Salt Lake County mayor's race, a move that reinstates Republican Ellis Ivory as a candidate for mayor of Utah's most populous county.

The court said a note produced by former Republican candidate Nancy Workman substantially complies with Utah election law. The note from Workman's doctor said the strain of fighting criminal charges against her and campaigning for re-election were causing a strain that disable her from continuing as a political candidate.

The Supreme Court order was issued about two hours after the five justices heard the case, and was issued without elaboration, the judges said, because Election Day is so close. The order said a written opinion would follow.

That note cleared the way for Ivory, a popular Salt Lake valley businessman, to elevate himself from write-in to ballot candidate.

The Utah Democratic Party sued, claiming language in the doctor's note was ambiguous and didn't meet the language of state law, which said a candidate could only be replaced on the ballot by his or her party if they become "mentally or physically disabled."

The Democratic Party won't appeal the high court's ruling, party chairman Donald Dunn said.

"Now it's up to the voters, and I think the voters will see through all this," Dunn said.

Messages left for Ivory, independent candidate Merrill Cook and Democrat Peter Corroon weren't immediately returned.

The Salt Lake County Republican Party on Wednesday certified Ivory as its candidate with the Salt Lake County Clerk's office. Less than an hour later, the Utah Democratic Party filed a lawsuit, challenging the method used to advance Ivory's name to the ballot.

Workman had planned to run for re-election, even after being charged with two felony counts of misusing about $17,000 in health department funds to hire a bookkeeper at a nonprofit organization where her daughter was a top financial officer.

That scandal sparked a series of legal and political volleys that left the ballot in question less than a week before voters went to the polls:

—Salt Lake County Republicans withdrew their endorsement of Workman at its Oct. 5 meeting and instead backed Ivory, a wealthy land developer who entered the race as a write-in after becoming convinced that Workman's legal problems prevented her from winning.

—On Oct. 12, Workman quit the race, producing a doctor's note saying the strain of an election and running for office was too great and would disable her from continuing as a political candidate.

—Six days later, the county clerk's office rejected Ivory's ballot status, saying state law prohibits a party from certifying a new candidate until the existing one drops out.

—Because of its own rules for notifying members, the party had to wait nearly two weeks, until Oct. 26, before meeting to certify Ivory as its candidate.

—Ivory officially became a ballot candidate on Wednesday morning.

—Less than an hour later, Democrats sued, claiming Workman's note did not meet the legal muster of a doctor signifying her as "mentally or physically disabled."

—Third District Judge Stephen Henriod agreed later that day, ruling that language in the doctor's note was "ambiguous" and that Ivory's name should not be certified for the ballot. The Salt Lake County District Attorney's office, which represents the county clerk in legal matters, appealed to the Supreme Court.

Workman has been placed on paid administrative leave while she faces the felony charges. She has pleaded not guilty, claiming the charges are politically motivated. She faces trial in February.