Sen. Darrell Renstrom, D-North Ogden, will win re-election this year, showing that Utahns are a just people, believes State Democratic Chairman Randy Horiuchi.
Renstrom, with Horiuchi as his spokesman, announced Tuesday afternoon that he will stay in his District 19 race. Renstrom was unavailable for comment.Two weeks ago, Renstrom, in a jury trial, was found not guilty of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. He was charged after a 19-year-old man said that in June Renstrom picked him up while he was hitchhiking in Ogden and fondled him against his will.
Renstrom denied the charges, saying he did pick up the young man - only to give him a ride but that when the man asked for $20 to buy drugs, Renstrom asked him to get out of his car. The young man threatened to get back at him, Renstrom testified in court.
Since his acquittal, Renstrom has been considering whether he should continue his campaign, Horiuchi said.
Renstrom, an attorney, called Horiuchi Tuesday and told him he was staying in the race. Horiuchi called a press conference in the state Senate lounge to announce Renstrom's decision.
Renstrom could have gotten out of the race, but Utah law allows a party to replace a candidate only if the candidate is "mentally or physically disabled" and can't continue. Salt Lake County Commissioner Dave Watson, who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and drug charges earlier this year, was declared disabled and dropped his re-election bid. He was replaced on the ballot by the Democrats.
"Darrell, last evening, met with his family and talked to his son who is on a mission in Europe. And in a true spirit of democracy, they all voted unanimously to stay in the race," Horiuchi said. "The family decision was based largely on the belief that America's legal system is the fairest in the world."
But now Renstrom will be judged by the political system, not the legal system. And Horiuchi admitted that is a different standard.
Still, Horiuchi said Renstrom's chances for re-election are very good. "He is the hardest working local candidate we have - that will be equalizer in the race (against Republican former Weber County commissioner Boyd Story)," Horiuchi said.
Renstrom first won election to the state Senate in 1972, walking door-to-door and talking to 9,000 residents. He won re-election in 1976 and served in Senate leadership. In 1980, Renstrom worked on U.S. Rep. Gunn McKay's campaign, ignoring his own, Horiuchi said. He lost, as did McKay.
"But in 1984 Darrell came back. He worked hard, and he won again," Horiuchi said.
Senate Minority Leader Rex Black, D-Salt Lake, said he's glad Renstrom will stay in the race. "I don't know of any other legislator who is as effective for his constituents as Darrell."