The fate of Sen. Chris Buttars should be left up to his West Jordan constituents, say 42 percent of those responding to a new poll.
The NAACP is calling for the Republican senator's resignation, after he made what some believe to be a racist statement on the Senate floor earlier this week. And Senate GOP leaders are quietly pressuring him to announce he won't seek re-election this November.
But 42 percent of the 241 Utahns polled believe Buttars should finish his work this session and let the voters decide if he deserve another term. The Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll was conducted Saturday by Dan Jones & Associates, and has a 6.4 percent margin of error.
Earlier this week, Buttars used the word black to negatively describe the "baby" being divided by a bill dealing with sharing school district revenues, saying, "This baby is black, I'll tell you. This is a dark and ugly thing."
That led to a call for Buttars' resignation from Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Only 28 percent of Utahns polled want Buttars' to resign.
When asked whether the poll was an accurate picture of Utahns' perceptions, Williams said she's heard from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, including white, who are supportive and has also seen support on newspaper blogs
"I've heard from some of his constituents out in West Jordan," she said. "They were concerned. ... I've heard from a whole lot of people ... in agreement with the NAACP."
Still, Williams acknowledged some in Utah don't think Buttars was out-of-line enough to merit his resignation.
"The demographics of the state we live in ... some of the issues that are critical to the NAACP, a lot of folks in Utah feel it's not critical to them."
Senate Republican leaders apparently are hoping that an announcement from Buttars that he won't run for a third term this November will put an end to the controversy surrounding the statement he made during Tuesday afternoon's floor session.
Buttars met for about 45 minutes Friday morning with Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, to discuss Buttars' remark.
While Bramble declined to detail any specifics of the conversation, sources told the Deseret Morning News that it was made clear to Buttars this needs to be his final term in the Legislature.
According to the poll, 21 percent of Utahns agree and want Buttars to not seek re-election this year.
Buttars later apologized from the Senate floor, after Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, announced his words were a breach of decorum. He also posted an apology to the Senate majority's Web site, www.senatesite.com/blog.
Then, on Thursday Buttars said, "I stand by my statement." Asked if that meant he was not going to consider resigning, he said, "I stand by my apology. That's it. This issue is done as far as I'm concerned."
Attempts to reach the Buttars and Senate leadership were unsuccessful on Saturday.
However, earlier this week Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said it was up to Buttars to decide whether to resign.
Valentine said no further action can be taken against Buttars under Senate rules. Senators can be censured only if they refuse to apologize for a breach of decorum, he said, noting a censure carries no penalties.
The national NAACP won't be stepping in on the matter, Williams said.
Williams discussed the situation with Dennis Courtland Hayes, interim president and chief executive officer, of the national civil rights organization while at an NAACP conference in New York on Saturday."He knows about what's going on, and he says we're taking the right approach," Williams said. "They always allow the branches to handle situations," she said.
Contributing: Deborah Bulkeley, Lisa Riley Roche