The Utah County Deputies Association has voted to endorse Lt. Doug Witney over three other candidates - including their own boss, incumbent Sheriff Dave Bateman - in the race for sheriff.
Witney, 48, of Springville, received approximately 90 of 170 votes cast, said deputy sheriff Skip Curtis, president of the association. Bateman got about 60 votes and Democrat George Alexanderson got about 20.Former Graham County, Ariz., Sheriff Richard Mack did not get any votes from deputies.
Curtis said the association will throw its support - in the form of money and volunteer hours - behind Witney's campaign. Witney, Bateman and Mack are vying for the Republican nomination, and will try to persuade 1,100 delegates to vote for them during a May 2 nominating convention in Orem.
The deputies apparently feel that Bateman, who was appointed sheriff in 1985, has been their boss long enough.
"They just wanted a new and different direction," Curtis said. "I don't think anyone has any ill will against the sheriff.
"I think they just feel like things have gotten a little stagnant."
Endorsement from the association is significant for several reasons. About 400 of the delegates who will vote at the May 2 convention are members of the Deputies Association or an auxiliary association, Curtis said.
Many of the delegates have said they would cast their vote at the convention for whomever the deputies chose in their own vote. That means some Bateman supporters could vote for Witney.
Also, the association could ask Bateman to withdraw from the race in order to allow a united front against Mack, a formidable challenger whom the deputies obviously don't want in office. Mack has said that he feels most of the opposition to his campaign is coming from the deputies, but that he doesn't think their dislike for him would be a problem if he were elected.
Mack's statements about organizing civilian posses to fulfill some of the functions of deputies haven't gone over well with members of the association. Also, some deputies believe Mack is an extremist. While sheriff of Graham County, Mack led a national fight against the Brady gun law, and became a favorite of militia and gun-rights groups.
If one of the candidates can get 60 percent of the delegate vote at convention, he will be the Republican nominee and will face Alexanderson in the November election. If no one gets 60 percent, the top two vote-getters will face off in a June primary.