Tight race expected for district attorney job

Published: Sunday, Oct. 31 2010 1:23 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The race for Salt Lake County district attorney looks a lot like the race four years ago. But a few things have changed, and there are some late-breaking developments.

Incumbent Lohra Miller and challenger Sim Gill are squaring off for the second time in what promises to be a tight race to the finish.

Miller now has four years in the role under her belt; Gill has plenty of questions about the incumbent's record in office.

A Deseret News/KSL-TV Dan Jones poll from 2006 had Miller besting Gill 41 percent to 38 percent just before Election Day, when she edged Gill with a 3 percent margin of the vote.

The roles have reversed this year, with the most recent poll favoring Gill 49 percent to Miller's 39 percent. The spread in both polls, though, fell within the margin of error. The most recent poll was conducted Oct. 25-28 and has a margin of error of 4.8 percent.

With 7 percent of active registered voters still undecided, according to results of the 451 respondents in poll results released Friday, Miller is hoping to regain ground now that electioneering accusations have been cleared. On Tuesday, the county released results from its investigation finding accusations Miller's campaign used county time and resources were "not substantive and did not warrant further action."

Miller called the accusations "a nasty, last-minute campaign tactic that was orchestrated by my opponent" and hopes voters will recognize it as such.

Based on the most recent numbers and the undecided voters in the mix, the race promises to be one of the tightest and more dramatic in the state this election year.

Both claim to have the experience and qualifications for the position. Miller points to the past four years, navigating the office through the ongoing recession.

"I not only have the experiences in managing the budget and leading the prosecution, but I have the civil experience working with the councils and mayors' offices and representing all the independent elective," Miller said. "I've been very successful in establishing the district attorney's office as a recognized, trusted source of legal information for the county, which it hasn't always been."

Gill, who is currently serving as the chief prosecutor for Salt Lake City, said he has a combination of practical, management and program-implementation experience. He has prosecuted both misdemeanor and felony cases and helped develop the state's first mental-health court.

But Gill said the main reason for taking a second run at Miller is restoring public trust in the chief prosecutor for the county. "Ms. Miller has created a record that calls into question the integrity and honor of that office," he said. "In the past few years there have been issues and questions that have that office being called into question."

Miller said it's easy to stand on the outside and criticize. She said she does the best she can with what she's given.

"Being district attorney is about making tough decisions based on the information available to you," she said. "I would expect that someone you elected as district attorney would examine facts and just base their decision on those facts and not focus on headlines."

But Gill said a review of the headlines Miller has generated during her tenure "speak for themselves." He said part of what motivated him to run again was the comments from various people who didn't vote for him in 2006 and wished they had.

"There is an understanding in the community that something is wrong at the district attorney's office," Gill said.

He cited some of what he sees as major blunders committed by Miller, including her firing of veteran prosecutor Kent Morgan under allegations that he leaked information to an owner of an illegal escort service that was under investigation by the office.

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