One state Democratic Senate candidate is home free and a GOP state senator may face some tough questions following Tuesday night's "drop dead" financial filing deadline for Utah legislative candidates.
Sen. Nathan Tanner, R-South Ogden, is in a close re-election battle with local doctor Edgar Allen, a Democrat, in Senate District 18.Tanner is out of the country. A campaign financial filing for Tanner was submitted by his personal attorney, officials in Lt. Gov. Olene Walker's election office were told. The signature on the filing is unreadable.
But there are no amounts on the filing. All are zeros, even though Tanner has clearly raised and spent money on his race this year.
And it is unclear, legally, if such a filing fills the requirements of a new law that says legislative candidates must file a "complete and correct" campaign disclosure report by Sept. 15 or their names must be removed from the ballot.
Democrats have made no decision now but will consider filing suit over the Tanner's filing, party leaders said Wednesday.
Walker, a GOP office holder like Tanner, said Wednesday morning that, considering this is the first year of the tough law, "I'm ruling that it (Tanner's report) is a legal filing, although certainly it must be amended. The law says you can amend a report for errors."She adds she doesn't like being put in the position of tracking down candidates, pleading that they file. She is working hard to see no one's name is disqualified from the ballot.
"It is a very harsh penalty, taking someone's name from the ballot. But the Legislature passed this law, and I'm just trying to enforce it," Walker said.
Only two registered candidates failed to file any kind of report by the Tuesday deadline, state election officials said.
GOP Senate District 1 candidate Kenneth Grover didn't file and is withdrawing from the race against Democratic candidate Paula Julander. Grover has apparently moved from the Salt Lake City Avenues district, election officials said.
Julander was heavily favored in one of the few Democratic Senate districts in the state. She faces two minor party candidates in November.
And in House District 24, Natural Law Party candidate John Owen Erickson also didn't file. He also is reportedly withdrawing from the race, election officials said.
Concerning Tanner's filing, state Democratic Party Executive Director Todd Taylor said Wednesday morning, "This is serious. (Tanner's filing) certainly violates the spirit of the law if not the letter. We're keeping all our options open (including going to court in an effort to get Tanner's name removed from the ballot).
"If someone else, even the state party, can at the last minute get someone to say they have power of attorney and file for a candidate, we'll all just file for the candidates, put in zeros and amend the report later when we feel like it," Taylor said.
State Republican Party officials couldn't be reached for comment on deadline. GOP senate leaders and party leaders were reportedly scrambling Tuesday afternoon to help Tanner file the report.
"The senator knew about this filing deadline since March," said Meg Holbrook, state Democratic Party chairwoman. "We want to give the senator time to get back in to town to explain himself. But this is a real concern."
Taylor added that because of ballot printing deadlines, Democrats may have to move quickly if they decide to go to court and challenge Tanner's filing. "I don't know when he's getting back. We may have to make a decision before hearing from him."
Walker, who serves as the state's chief election officer, apparently went the extra mile in trying to help tardy candidates. She was personally on the telephone Tuesday calling candidates and party leaders warning that this or that candidate hadn't filed yet. "My whole staff was on the phone for two days, calling people. I had my own list I worked through," she said.
In the 1998 Legislature a bill failed that would have set up a bipartisan election commission and taken election law enforcement out of the office of a partisan-elected lieutenant governor. Walker neither favored nor opposed that bill. In voting down the Democratic-sponsored bill, Republicans said they worried that the office would cost too much money and could be abused for political reasons.
The Tanner/Allen race has been targeted by both parties as one of the most important of the 15 state Senate contests this year. GOP leaders have said the state party will pump money into Tanner's race. Democrats say likewise of Allen's. Before Tanner, the swing district was held by Democratic Sen. Winn Richards, a cousin of Allen's. Allen couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday morning on Tanner's filing.
Sen. Dave Buhler, R-Salt Lake, sponsored the new "drop dead" campaign filing deadline law, passed in the 1998 session.
"I liken it to filing for office as a candidate," Buhler said Wednesday. "If you don't file, in person, you can't run. Period. These campaign filings are important. The public has a right to know who is funding our races. Under the old law, with a seven-day-prior-to-the-election deadline and a weekend in between, you could mail in your filing from who knows where and it could actually arrive (in Walker's office), postmarked correctly, after Election Day. What kind of disclosure is that?"
Buhler said he hopes Tanner, a fellow GOP senator, will stay on the ballot. And the law may have to be changed to allow a greater window of opportunity in which to file the Sept. 15 report early - to better accommodate candidates who are traveling around the Sept. 15 deadline, Buhler said.
But Buhler added, "We don't make allowances for candidates to file. It may be tough to take a name from the ballot, but it's tough not even to get the chance to run at all - and that's the penalty for not filing your candidacy on time."