Salt Lake County Commissioner M. Tom Shimizu has used a comfortable lead in the polls as a shield against a barrage of campaign attacks
Democrat Randy Horiuchi has been launching since April.Shimizu said Friday that a Dan Jones & Associates poll he commissioned showed one week ago that he holds a 50-29 lead over Horiuchi.
Throughout the campaign, Shimizu has taken a defensive posture in defending his record while Horiuchi has called out every Democratic gun he could muster to attack Shimizu's leadership ability. A radio spot featuring County Attorney David Yocom characterizes Shimizu as a man who would make a good neighbor but who lacks leadership skills.
On Friday, Horiuchi held a press conference where he announced the endorsement of the four Democratic mayors in Salt Lake County, five former mayors and a former county commissioner - also all Democrats. Shimizu re
sponded by announcing he has the support of eight current mayors in the county - all of them Republicans.
Horiuchi has held press conferences as often as once each week and said Thursday that he has issued so many press releases during the campaign that he can't even keep track of them all.
Shimizu issued a cumulative response to the barrage of attacks on his leadership ability by issuing a list of 18 major accomplishments accompanied by astatement that he has been "wrongly accused" by the former Democratic Party state chairman. In a press release several weeks ago, Shimizu said Horiuchi has relied on fiction and misinformation in his attempts to discredit the incumbent commissioner.
Horiuchi's campaign approach has been unusually broad for an underdog. He has spent a good part of the campaign season taking indirect shots at Shimizu by campaigning against the entire all-Republican County Commission. Horiuchi has been particularly critical of management policies at the Salt Palace and the county's decision to turn the facility over to a private contractor. He has also criticized the County Commission's decision to reject a management partnership with the Forest Service in Mill Creek Canyon.
The Salt Palace is under the direct administration of Commissioner Bart Barker, but "I've always maintained that because Shimizu voted in each of these occasions and was involved in the discussions that he retains some culpability," Horiuchi said.
Horiuchi's approach has caused enough confusion about who he was running against that Barker received an invitation to debate Horiuchi before the primary.
Horiuchi has also preached that having an all-Republican County Commission stymies political debate, yet Shimizu has responded to many of Horiuchi's direct complaints about the state of county government by saying they had their genesis while Democrat Dave Watson was in office.
Shimizu first took office in 1981 and gave up the seat in 1986 to run for the Second Congressional District against Wayne Owens. Shimizu returned to office in 1989.
Horiuchi earned a great deal of his name recognition while the state Democratic chairman during the past four years. "I've enjoyed being an underdog and coming from way back and making a race of the thing," he said. "I've always made politics a hobby, and this is the first time it has gotten more serious than that."
Horiuchi is serious to the tune of $22,575, the amount he has loaned the campaign. As of last week, Horiuchi had raised a total of $47,443, including his personal loan. Shimizu had raised $36,960.
The most noticeable difference between the two candidate's campaign contributions is that most of Horiuchi's contributions came from business and labor organizations while most of Shimizu's came from individuals.
Horiuchi, a professional lobbyist, said the business contributions display his background. "They become your natural constituency when you raise funds," he said.
Horiuchi has also been critical of the commission's funding levels for the sheriff's department and the county attorney's office - both of which are headed by strong Democrats. But Shimizu said the sheriff's budget has doubled during the time he's been in office. "So when they talk about commitment to law enforcement, they're doing something totally unfair."
Horiuchi has been endorsed by the county firefighters and the Utah Public Employees Association, but Shimizu is quick to point out that the Salt Lake County branch of UPEA did not agree with the state association's endorsement.
If Horiuchi's sometimes around-the-clock campaigning hasn't kept him busy enough, he got married Sept. 22 and has been trying to keep up with a commuter marriage. His wife, Frances McConaughy, is an associate professor of dental hygiene at Weber State, and the couple has not yet set up house in one place.