Salt Lake County mayoral write-in candidate Ellis Ivory, who announced his campaign Tuesday, is already making a big splash in the race, siphoning potential votes from Democrat Peter Corroon, GOP Mayor Nancy Workman and independent Merrill Cook, a new poll by the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV shows.
The survey conducted Thursday night by Dan Jones & Associates shows that Ivory, a well-known homebuilder, has already garnered 32 percent of registered voters — just two days after announcing he'd run a write-in campaign to replace the embattled Workman.
Corroon still leads, getting 34 percent support, the new poll shows.
But Ivory's entry has clearly shaken up the field, found Jones, who surveyed 306 registered county voters.
For example, in a poll conducted just a week ago — before Ivory made his Tuesday announcement — Corroon had 49 percent support, Cook had 14 percent support and Workman had 18 percent support.
Now those candidates' numbers are 34 percent for Corroon, 6 percent for Cook and 10 percent for Workman, Jones found in his polling last night.
In his poll Thursday, Jones asked, in full: "As you may have heard, local homebuilder Ellis Ivory is running a write-in campaign for Salt Lake County mayor. Following the write-in rules, Ivory's name will not be on the Nov. 2 ballot. Citizens voting for him must write his name on the envelope that contains the actual punch-card ballot.
"Current Mayor Nancy Workman remains the Republican Party's 'official' nominee, and her name will appear as such on the punch-card ballot. But the Salt Lake County Republican Party's central committee Tuesday night voted to take away its endorsement of Workman and give it to Ivory.
"Considering the new developments in the county mayor's race, if the election were held today for whom would you vote?" The names of the candidates were then listed. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percent.
Thursday morning, before the poll was taken, state GOP chairman Joe Cannon told the Deseret Morning News that he found the swelling support for Ivory "unprecedented" and growing quickly.
Republicans and others "are looking for an alternative to Mayor Workman, an alternative to Corroon and Cook. Ellis provides that," said Cannon.
That is reflected in the new poll. Jones found that 53 percent of Republicans support Ivory.
In last week's poll, Workman got 26 percent of the GOP vote. In the Thursday poll, she gets only 12 percent. Last week, Cook, a former GOP congressman, got 19 percent of the GOP vote; Thursday he got only 8 percent.
Both Cannon and Ivory are members of the Deseret Morning News' board of directors. But they had nothing to do with the newspaper editors' decision to conduct Thursday's poll and had no say in the wording of the questions asked. Ivory has taken a leave of absence from the board and will resign his board position should he win the race.
While Workman remains the official nominee of the Republican Party, Cannon said Ivory — a well-known Republican who in the 1970s served as the party's national committeeman — will have all of the support and access to GOP voting lists and turn-out-the-vote efforts the party can provide.
Jones also asked Thursday night whether Workman should continue her campaign or step down as a candidate.
Jones found that 67 percent want her to step down, 21 percent want her to continue and 9 percent didn't know.
Those numbers are similar to the results of the poll Jones took a week ago before Ivory got in the race. Oddly enough, in both surveys there were people who wanted Workman to continue her race but who then said they would not be voting for her.
Ivory's 32-percent showing in the new poll is impressive, said Jones, who has polled in Utah for 30 years. It's questionable, however, whether a write-in candidate can actually attract such support at the polls, he added.
"Opinion (as measured in a poll) does not always lead to behavior," said Jones, who also teaches political science at the University of Utah.
"That is especially true in a write-in campaign," Jones added. But Ivory's strong showing in the new poll "could be a possibility" of actual voting results "if his supporters follow instructions on how to cast a write-in ballot."
Under Utah law, voters must place Ivory's name on the envelope that covers their ballot punch-card.
Ivory has already said his campaign will provide stickers with his name on it to potential voters. But, also following law, those stickers cannot be given out at the polling places or within 150 feet of polling places. Voters will have to take the stickers with them to voting places or just write Ivory's name on the ballot envelope.
To the best of anyone's knowledge, in recent history no write-in candidate has won a major race in Utah.
Ivory says he will fund his campaign himself, spending an estimated $400,000. One of his campaign aides said early discussions include Ivory mailing possible supporters stickers a day or so before the Nov. 2 elections — a mailing that could top 300,000 county voters.