Democratic leaders have a plan that could replace Salt Lake County Commissioner Dave Watson in Saturday's county convention. They were keeping their options open - but private - Friday.
"We will follow the letter of the law. This will all be resolved Saturday morning," said Utah State Democratic Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi.Their best shot in replacing the commissioner as their two-year commission nominee is to get Watson - who was arrested for investigation of drunken driving and cocaine possession last Sunday - certified "physically or mentally disabled" by a medical doctor.
"The state law on replacing a candidate is restrictive. But it isn't so restrictive that we can't act responsibly," Horiuchi said.
Watson will be in complete agreement with what is done, Horiuchi added.
Privately, Democratic leaders are saying that Watson can't run for re-election this year. The Deseret News has learned that Watson has sought medical advice, and that advice is that a re-election campaign could be hazardous to his health considering the pressure he is under following his arrest.
Rep. Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake, is Salt Lake County Democratic Party treasurer and an attorney. Pignanelli said Watson could be replaced in Saturday's convention by another Democrat if, under the law, he can be disqualified.
Earlier this week, Democratic leaders thought Watson would have to be nominated in the convention, eliminating B.T. Price, and then could be replaced on the ballot later.
Price is a perennial losing candidate for various offices and is considered unacceptable to mainstream Democrats (see accompanying story).
But the leaders don't want to actually nominate Watson if they can avoid the embarrassment of publicly supporting a candidate with such a cloud over his head. However, nominating Watson and acting on replacing him later is still an option, several Democrats said.