Utah Public Employees Association lobbyist Randy Horiuchi is publicizing UPEA's endorsement of his candidacy for the Salt Lake County Commission.
But the campaign endorsement does not include the backing of UPEA's Salt Lake County political action committee. The county PAC chose to endorse neither candidate in the race between Horiuchi and incumbent Republican Commissioner M. Tom Shimizu.The two Salt Lake County representatives with UPEA's political arm, Citizen Action by Public Employees, or CAPE, voted against the state group's plan to endorse Horiuchi, but they were voted down 7-2, and Horiuchi announced over the weekend he had won UPEA's support, said Larry Peterson, chairman of the Salt Lake County PAC.
David Marshall, Shimizu's administrative assistant, said Shimizu respects the group's right to establish a candidate screening process. But he believes the decision at the state level to support Horiuchi was less than objective.
Both candidates were interviewed by the Salt Lake County group, Peterson said. "Randy is charismatic, but Tom has addressed employee issues," he said. "The issue was a real struggle." The PAC voted to support one candidate, then flip-flopped to the other candidate a week later, then decided to support neither candidate a week after that.
Marshall said CAPE never asked to interview Shimizu before announcing it would endorse Horiuchi. "The reason we weren't informed is the local people weren't sure the state had made up its mind," he said.
Peterson said the county group objected to CAPE's decision, saying it set an unusual precedence. And CAPE Chairman Ken Foster said it was unusual for the state group to vote against the recommendation of a local PAC.
"He's worked for and helped us as a lobbyist for a number of years," Foster said of Horiuchi. "We felt that he was such an excellent representative for public employees that we simply should endorse him."
Marshall said he believes Horiuchi advised CAPE on the commission race before it gave Horiuchi its endorsement.
But Horiuchi said the only races he sizes up for UPEA are legislative races. "Whenever they discuss county races, I've asked to be excused." Horiuchi added that he had never met UPEA's Salt Lake County representatives until the night they interviewed him and Shimizu.
"What do the people on the state (level) know about Tom's performance?" Marshall asked. "How can you have a state CAPE having more expertise than the county people that work with Tom every day? Could it have been because Randy was there as a paid political consultant?"