District attorney race is a dead heat

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 3 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Salt Lake County voters are evenly split over their choice for the county's next district attorney.

According to a Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll of 366 county voters, Democrat Sim Gill is up by one percentage point, with 38 percent supporting his candidacy. Republican Lohra Miller nabbed 37 percent. Some 18 percent don't know whom they would vote for, and the Dan Jones & Associates poll has a margin of error of 5.1 percent, meaning the vote can swing either way.

Kirk Jowers, executive director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, said both candidates need to start doing more than touting their experience to get county voters interested in the race.

"That's just not enough to get the people fired up," Jowers said. "The interesting thing is whether this race will have enough juice to make voters really focus on it to create much of a swing."

The undecided voters could determine the election, Jowers said.

Libertarian Rob Latham polled 4 percent of the vote and pleaded with voters at a recent debate to "follow your gut" and vote for him, even if he can't win. Jowers said any votes Latham can get will likely be ones that would have been cast for Miller.

"It sounds like he won't go away," Jowers said.

Throughout the campaign, the two major party candidates, Gill and Miller, have traded barbs over who has the most experience for the job.

Gill has worked as Salt Lake City's chief prosecutor since 2000 and has also served as a deputy prosecutor for the District Attorney's Office for more than four years. He said the experience has prepared him for the heavy load of criminal cases the District Attorney's Office handles.

"Experience does matter," Gill said. "These are serious crimes that touch us in deep and profound ways."

As for Miller, he added, "She's never done any felony prosecution."

But Miller said endorsements of her candidacy from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Federation show who they believe has the most experience. "No one knows more than law enforcement about how to prosecute felonies," she said.

The District Attorney's Office does not just handle felonies, she added, and 50 percent of the workload is spent offering legal opinions to the County Council and county mayor. Miller said she has more experience with the civil side, and has provided counsel to planning commissions and worked on personnel law.

Meanwhile, Jowers said it's time the two candidates start talking about the real issues.

"As long as it's close, they are both trying to play out the clock and not make a horrible blunder, which could torpedo them," Jowers said. "As we see in sports, sometimes when you go into that mode, you end up harming yourself because something has to get the people motivated to vote."

Motivating voters means spending money, Jowers said, and Gill has a lot more money in his war chest to get him through the last month of the election. According to recent financial reports filed with the county, Gill has approximately $30,099 left in his campaign fund, while Miller has $1,699.

Throughout the campaign, Miller has raised $94,338, while Gill has total contributions of $116,613.

Other races for Salt Lake County elected positions aren't nearly as close, with incumbents holding commanding leads, according to the poll.

Approximately 62 percent of those polled supported the re-election of Republican County Sheriff Aaron Kennard, with 32 percent backing Democrat Jim Winder. County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, a Democrat, also has widespread support, with 60 percent of those surveyed supporting her. Republican Carrie Dickson trails with 25 percent.

Incumbent County Coun- cilman Jim Bradley is up 10 points over former Taylorsville Mayor Janice Auger for the at-large seat on the County Council. Bradley, a Democrat, has served as both a member of the council and as a commissioner in Salt Lake County's old form of government, while Auger served as Taylorsville's mayor for eight years.



E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS