The Salt Lake County mayor's race got even stranger today when noted homebuilder Ellis Ivory announced he's starting a write-in campaign for the job now held by embattled GOP incumbent Nancy Workman.
Ivory, founder of the largest residential construction firm in Utah, made his announcement this morning on Doug Wright's KSL Radio show after sending a press release to local news media.
Ivory, 64, a Republican, would face Democrat Peter Corroon, independent candidate Merrill Cook and Workman, if she does not get out of the race.
The Salt Lake County GOP central committee is to meet tonight to discuss Workman's problems stemming from charges of misusing public funds. The mayor was bound over for trial on two felony counts Monday. She suggested after the court hearing her decision to drop out or stay in the race will be made tonight.
The Deseret Morning News reported Saturday that in addition to the felony charges, Workman required top county bosses to pay a former boyfriend of her daughter $7,500 for admitted "uncompleted" computer consulting work several years ago. No charges have been filed against Workman in connection with that allegation.
"I'm convinced that (Workman) cannot win," Ivory said today.
He said he's running on the "four Nos.," saying if he wins he will serve with "No salary, no county car, no county credit card and I won't take any campaign contributions."
Workman's administration was rocked this spring by a county car/credit card scandal, although Workman herself was not directly involved.
"I'll pay for this race myself," the multi-millionaire said, noting he has time to serve now because he turned his business over to his son three years ago.
"I know I'd do a good job as mayor. The question is, can I put together enough good people and support to win a write-in campaign," he said.
Jim Bennett, son of U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, advertising man Evan Twede and campaign consultant Spencer Stokes — all GOP operatives who have worked for Sen. Bennett previously — are organizing the write-in campaign.
Ivory is a member of the Deseret Morning News board of directors. Ivory told John Hughes, the newspaper's editor and chief operating officer, that he was taking a leave of absence from the board while running his race and that he would no longer serve on the board if elected.
Jim Bennett said Tuesday morning that "it is the hope" that Tuesday night's county party central committee will officially remove its endorsement of Workman and endorse Ivory.
"To our knowledge, no one else is going to file as a write-in for the mayor's post," he said, adding that even if Ivory should get the official Republican Party endorsement, "Ellis will shy away from running overtly as a Republican; he's running as the best guy for the job."
Ivory said he has nothing against Workman herself, calling her "an honorable person. I'm actually the honorary co-chairman — along with (Utah Jazz owner) Larry Miller — of her campaign. I'm getting in this because she can't win. And I can do a better job than the other two guys" (Democrat Corroon and independent candidate Cook).
The latest Morning News poll by Dan Jones & Associates found Workman has only 11 percent support. Corroon has 43 percent and Cook has 20 percent.
"I'm going to give this four weeks, try my best. I've got a lot of work to do," Ivory said.
Along with the difficulty of rallying voter support for a write-in candidate relatively late in a race, the practicalities of casting and counting ballots can be problematic. State elections officials say a write-in candidate can just ask people to hand-write a name on the "secrecy" envelope enclosing the actual ballot. Or, at his own cost, a candidate can produce stickers with his name on it for voters to use. But the stickers, by law, cannot be given out at the polls, either by the candidate, his volunteers or by election judges.
All write-in envelopes must be counted by hand and they cannot be fed through the punch-card ballot counting machines.
Write-ins for major offices are difficult to organize and no one contacted today could remember a majority of Utahns ever supporting a write-in.
In 1976, then-Democratic U.S. 2nd District member Allan Howe, in election trouble after being arrested for soliciting a police decoy in downtown Salt Lake City, declined to quit the race.
The Democratic Party officially endorsed both Howe and Daryl McCarty, who ran a write-in effort, for the race. The Democrat vote was split between Howe and McCarty. Newcomer Dan Marriott, the GOP nominee, won the seat.