SPRINGVILLE Rep. Calvin Bird, R-Springville, told the Deseret Morning News on Thursday that he will drop his bid for re-election after the paper learned he was cited with solicitation in Salt Lake City last September.
"I'm sorry," Bird said. "This was a huge mistake. I should have known better than to pull over and talk to the lady. No improprieties happened, but the offers were there. It was really dumb."
Bird said he has not decided whether to resign from the Legislature or whether he will serve out the remainder of his term, which ends on Dec. 31.
Bird was elected by a landslide in 2002 to represent Mapleton and large parts of Springville and Spanish Fork in District 65. However, he was facing a GOP primary challenge this spring from Aaron Tilton,
who now will run unopposed in both the June 22 primary and Nov. 2 general election.
"You are kidding me," Tilton said Thursday night when he stopped knocking on doors to take a cell phone call with the news. "Oh, my heck. Wow."
Bird, 56, was driving in the area of 1899 S. State at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 when he pulled over and attempted to solicit sex from an undercover Salt Lake City police officer posing as a prostitute, according to police and court documents.
The female officer issued Bird a citation and he pleaded not guilty two weeks later. On April 12, as part of a plea agreement, he entered a guilty plea that placed him on a year's probation and diverted his case to the John's Program. If he completes the program which costs $350 and consists of 10 classes his guilty plea will be set aside in April 2005 and his record expunged.
"I should have maybe fought it, but I didn't," Bird said. "I hoped it would be expunged. I never did actually do anything."
Bird said he already was preparing to withdraw after consulting with some acquaintances who had urged him to get out of the race.
"I'm sorry I made a mistake, a big mistake," he said.
Bird's guilty plea came just 12 days before the Utah County Republican convention, where he nearly won the Republican nomination outright.
Instead, Tilton, a contract consultant for technology firms, narrowly forced Bird into a primary. Bird finished with 57.8 percent of the votes, just shy of the 60 percent he needed to become the GOP candidate outright and avoid the runoff.
Tilton, 32, promised to continue his campaign so constituents get to know him.
"I hope that personally everything can work out" for the Bird family, he said. "It's unfortunate and it's not the way I'd want to win the race."
Bird won his seat in the Utah House in 2002 with 71 percent of the vote, but not until after he ousted incumbent Glenn Way in the Republican primary. Way later resigned the seat before completing his term when his wife obtained a restraining order against him for threats of violence.
Bird served half a term on the Springville City Council before he resigned to run for mayor. He lost that 1997 mayoral race to Hal Wing. He attempted to regain a council seat in 2000 when another council member resigned, but the council voted for one of eight other candidates.
A lifelong Springville resident, Bird is the owner of TLC for Kids, a Springville day-care facility.
The John's Program is designed to help first-time offenders deal with emotional issues. Sex solicitation rises to a class-A misdemeanor for a second offense and to a third-degree felony for a third offense.
"If someone fails to complete the course, a conviction is automatically added to his record," said Matt Sorensen, criminal court administrator for the Salt Lake City Justice Court.
Defendants who enter the John's Program are usually required to take an AIDS test, said Peggy Hauff, a Court and Treatment Services clerk at the Salt Lake County Criminal Justice Services Court.
Contributing: Pat Reavy; E-mail: email@example.com