SALT LAKE CITY — Lohra Miller is hoping this week's announcement that allegations of political pressure in the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office were unfounded will help her overcome a 10-point deficit in her bid for re-election.
Miller, the incumbent district attorney and a Republican, trails Democratic challenger Sim Gill 49 percent to 39 percent, with 7 percent undecided, according to a Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted this week for the Deseret News and KSL-TV.
The four-day survey of 451 Salt Lake County residents, who voted in the 2008 general election and/or this year's primary election, wrapped up Thursday, which means some respondents may not have known the outcome of the investigation by the county's human resources division.
Pollster Dan Jones said he believes the investigation hurt Miller in the poll.
"Even though just now she's been cleared, that happened after the poll (began)," the pollster said. "That (race) could tighten up of the weekend."
On Tuesday, the county released results from its investigation into allegations that there was "political pressure" within the office to re-elect Miller. Investigators found that information relating to allegations that county time and resources were being used to further Miller's campaign was "not substantive and did not warrant further action."
On Friday, Miller called the allegations "a nasty, last-minute campaign tactic that was orchestrated by my opponent," and she's hoping voters will recognize it as such.
"It's unfortunate that the Democrats have taken an issue like this and created a headline to influence the voters," she said. "Even though it's unfounded, the damage can be done. … Unless the voters stand up and say we're not going to tolerate it, negative campaigning can work."
Miller is under scrutiny over allegations that members of her domestic violence team made racially inappropriate comments directed at Gill, chief prosecutor for Salt Lake City.
Gill cites those controversies, and others that have taken place while Miller has been in office, as evidence that "something is broken in the District Attorney's Office that needs to be fixed."
Gill plans to accomplish that, he said, by making the office "a decentralized office that belongs to the (residents) and the municipalities of Salt Lake County."
"There's only (Salt Lake County) District Attorney's Office, and it belongs to Republicans and Democrats alike," he said. "I've made a personal commitment to that."
The poll shows that Gill is winning over the majority of independent voters (56 percent to Miller's 24 percent), and he has a large lead among Democrats polled (88 percent to Miller's 9 percent). Of the Republican respondents, 73 percent said they would vote for Miller if the election were held today, and 17 percent they'd choose Gill.
Gill also has gained support in the final weeks of the election. A Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted Oct. 11-14, had Gill leading Miller 41 percent to 36 percent, with 14 percent undecided.
"While I am absolutely grateful for what the polls are showing, we will not let up until the last hour of the political season," Gill said. "Our motto has been there is no substitute for hard work."
Miller said she believes she can make up the difference by getting her supporters and Republican voters to the polls on Tuesday.
"It really comes down to who gets out and votes," she said.
In other countywide races, Republican Richard Snelgrove holds a 46 percent to 36 percent advantage over Democrat Holly Mullen in the race for at-large seat B on the Salt Lake County Council.
Incumbent Sherrie Swensen, a Democrat, leads Republican challenger Jeremy Votaw 63 percent to 28 percent in the county clerk race; and incumbent Jim Winder, a Democrat, has a 60 percent to 32 percent lead over Republican Beau Babka in the race for county sheriff.
In addition, 60 percent of Salt Lake County voters said they would vote for Proposition 1, a bond initiative to raise the final $15 million needed to complete the Utah Museum of Natural History project. Thirty-nine percent said they would vote against the bond, while 7 percent remain undecided.