Republican leaders fear that Nancy Workman's legal troubles will affect other county races in November's election — but that fear, in one instance at least, appears to be unfounded.

Democratic Salt Lake County Council candidate Jenny Wilson has raised more than five times the money Republican incumbent Steve Harmsen has in the most visible council race this year — and yet the gap between the two continues to widen, with Harmsen in the lead.

In the latest Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll, conducted two weeks ago by Dan Jones & Associates, 43 percent of respondents said they will vote for Harmsen with 32 percent favoring Wilson.

"Arrgh," was Wilson's response to the numbers. "What do we have to do?"

No one can say Wilson hasn't been doing plenty already. She has been the most active of any council candidate in the four races being contested this year — holding press conferences, putting her face on billboards, appearing at functions, going to council meetings, networking with donors and the media.

And yet she continues to fall behind. In a poll conducted in May, Wilson trailed Harmsen by four percentage points, 34 to 30. In July, Harmsen's lead widened to six points, 36 to 30. Now the gap is 11 points.

At least with regard to donors, Wilson has been unquestionably successful; she has raised more than $80,000 in this, her first shot at political office, exceeding all other council candidate fund-raising and dwarfing Harmsen's pot of $15,000.

More than $9,000 of Harmsen's take comes from his own pocket.

Wilson has also invoked her family's political tradition with the slogan "A legacy of leadership." Her father is former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson, a popular figure among both Democrats and Republicans.

Nevertheless, all of Wilson's efforts have not been able to gain traction against the two large advantages Harmsen enjoys: incumbency and Republicanism.

Voters appear to be judging Harmsen on his own merits, separating him from embattled County Mayor Workman, whose well-publicized troubles have sent her poll numbers into a nosedive.

That fact is the more noteworthy given that the latest poll gave respondents a ready opportunity to blur the two candidates. In the poll, the question regarding the Harmsen-Wilson race was immediately preceded by a question about Workman's race, in which she registered an anemic 12 percent compared to front-runner Peter Corroon's 43 percent.

Wilson has worked for political campaigns and politicians, but this is her first run at office herself. Harmsen is a political veteran, serving as a Salt Lake County commissioner and running for various races over the years. Three other council races are up for grabs on Nov. 2, but the Harmsen-Wilson race is the most visible — it is the only contested seat that is "at large" instead of representing a geographic district, meaning all county residents are able to vote for it.


E-mail: aedwards@desnews.com