Scandals in the Salt Lake County attorney's office, including the grand jury indictment of then-County Attorney Ted Cannon, set the stage for a mud-slinging, name-calling election campaign in 1986.
"I don't think I brought the fireworks to that campaign," Democrat County Attorney David Yocom said of his contest against county prosecutor Michael Christensen four years ago. Yet this year the attorney's race has been so quiet that Yocom, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Mark E. Anderson, hadn't even met until less than one week ago.That meeting came when Yocom showed up at his downtown justice division office to
follow along on an office tour Anderson had requested.
Evidence of the campaign's low profile is also found in the numbers: Yocom said he spent $65,000 to win the office four years ago. "The comfort (this year) is not having to raise as much money." This year, Yocom had raised $16,660 and had spent just under $12,000 as of last week. Anderson had raised $4,258 and had spent only $2,478 as of Oct. 19.
Some $3,000 of Anderson's campaign funds - almost three-fourths of the total - came from one person. Yocom brought in $1,500 from the Utah Public Employees Association's political arm, $1,300 from labor sources, $500 from a bail bond company and dozens of $100 to $500 contributions from Salt Lake-area attorneys and law firms.
Perhaps having no fuses to light in his own campaign has given Yocom the time to look for excitement elsewhere: Two weeks ago he jumped in to defend Democrat Salt Lake County Sheriff Pete Hayward during a presentation by Hayward's challenger, Aaron Kennard. Yocom accused Kennard of being so desperate in his campaign that he lied about Hayward's health. Yocom also did a radio spot for fellow Democrat Randy Horiuchi, who wants to unseat County Commissioner M. Tom Shimizu.
In the meantime, Anderson said he has used a network of supporters to distribute "thousands of fliers through a network of friends and interested people." The printed campaign announcements have been the mainstay of the Anderson campaign in light of the limited campaign funds available. "You can't go out and buy time on TV every day" with a $4,000 campaign fund, he said.
Unlike Yocom and several of his predecessors who worked for the office before becoming elected, Anderson has never worked for the county attorney's office and has spent six of the past 10 years serving as a mission president for the LDS Church in Finland and most recently in Colombia.
"I think we need some new blood in there," he said, adding that he has someone in mind for chief executive deputy who would take the job for the same wages the average taxpayer makes instead of the $70,000-plus some attorneys in Yocom's staff make.
Anderson said it is important that the county attorney's office help coordinate community efforts against drugs. He also advocates home confinement for non-violent criminals and believes criminal punishment should include paying damages to the victim.
His role as county attorney would be to "set a high moral tone and positive direction for the more than 50 capable attorneys in the county attorney's office in our war drugs, alcohol misuse, pornography, child and spouse abuse" and other problems.
When it comes to these kinds of campaign issues, "I don't know where we differ at all," Yocom said. "He has ideas on home confinement and electronic monitoring (for jail prisoners), but I've been a proponent of those ideas since I was elected."
Anderson sees differences in the way he and Yocom would run the office. Talk among the county commissioners that they might hire an independent attorney to advise them tells Anderson the attorney is not being effective. It tells Yocom the commissioners just don't want him to speak up like he wants to. "They want a lawyer who will sit there and not be a public figure as he's elected to be," Yocom said.
One area of Anderson's platform Yocom sees little hope for is Anderson's advocacy for capital punishment for repeat drug dealers. "It's along the lines of President Bush's proposal of having capital punishment for the kingpin drug pushers," Anderson said.
According to Anderson's proposal, a jury could sentence a impose a death sentence for a third felony drug-selling conviction. "All we're saying is that we have to get tough on these major drug pushers and do more than we're now doing to get them out of Utah."
Yocom said he doubts a death penalty for drug peddlers would meet constitutional muster.
Anderson has also been a candidate for federal office, running unsuccessfully in 1968 against Republican Sen. Wallace Bennett.