Despite a virtual vote of no confidence from his deputies, Utah County Sheriff David Bateman won't pull out of the race for his post.
"I'm in for the long haul," said Bateman, 57, who has been sheriff since 1985.Bateman is being challenged for the Republican nomination by Lt. Doug Witney, an investigator with the Utah County Attorney's Office, and by former Graham County, Ariz., sheriff Richard Mack.
Witney outdistanced Bateman in a Utah County Deputies Association vote last week, prompting some to wonder if the longtime sheriff would turn in his badge.
"A lot of people may have thought I had a bellyfull and would withdraw if my personnel didn't support me," Bateman said. "I certainly thought about that and gave it a great deal of consideration."
However, he said, "I'm in the race, and I'll continue to be here."
Approximately 53 percent of the 170 members of the deputies association endorsed Witney. Meanwhile, about 35 percent stood behind Bateman, while 12 percent gave the nod to Democratic candidate George Alexanderson, a former New York City cop.
No deputies voted for Mack. Some deputy sheriffs who oppose Mack fear that having both Bateman and Witney in the race will split the vote and work in Mack's favor at the nominating convention.
Despite receiving no votes from the deputies association, Mack wasn't fazed. In fact, the outspoken former Provo police officer questioned the value of the deputies' vote.
"It's kind of funny that the employees of government would want to control who becomes the servant of the people," Mack said. "I oppose that."
Bateman called the vote disappointing but not surprising. He reasoned that he may have been hurt by the fact that only sworn officers were able to vote, while non-sworn members of an auxiliary association could not.
Also, Bateman said, about 80 of those who voted have been with the sheriff's office less than a year. They may be disenchanted because pay for starting deputies at the Utah County Jail was recently decreased in a county-governmentwide salary adjustment.
In addition, Bateman said, some of the deputies are not happy with the direct supervision model the sheriff instituted when the new county jail opened in Spanish Fork last year. Under that model, an unarmed officer works inside a pod among the prisoners. Many of those deputies shifted their support to Witney, who advocates either a linear supervision model - in which deputies don't have as much direct contact with inmates - or increased staff size at the jail.
While the deputies association vote dealt a blow to Bateman's campaign, it was a boon for Witney as he prepares to get delegates' votes at the convention.
"I'm really excited about the support," said Witney, 48, of Springville. "I really think a lot of people caught the vision of where the sheriff's office could go."
Witney hopes the deputies association vote will send a message to police departments throughout the county that they should support him for sheriff. Although the departments might not come forward to endorse him as the deputies association did, Witney still puts stock in the backing he has re-ceived.
"At least it shows that I have enough trust from the members of the association for them to consider me," he said. "Who this vote may influence is very significant."
Meanwhile, Mack continues to feel that most of the opposition to his campaign comes from within the deputies association. Most deputies don't want him elected, and they are telling delegates not to vote for him, Mack said.
"They need to stick to serving the people of this county and doing their jobs and leave politics to the people running for office," he said. "The deputies should be the last group to tell the people of this county who should be the next sheriff.
"Government should not be employee-controlled."
Mack, a controversial figure since he led the fight against the federal Brady gun law while sheriff of Graham County, said that he won't have a problem working with the deputies if he is elected - despite their obvious dislike for him. However, if Mack is elected, some deputies have said they may have a problem working with him.
"If they're not dedicated to the job, they need to leave," Mack said.