Voters chose experience over a call for change in the state treasurer's GOP primary race Tuesday, picking chief deputy state treasurer Richard Ellis over Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy, to be the party's nominee.
With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, Ellis had just under 60 percent of the vote compared to just over 40 percent for Walker.
"I'm actually surprised. I expected it to be closer," Ellis said, attributing his victory to voters recognizing "experience is important when it comes to taking care of their money." Ellis, 48, has also served as budget director to two Republican governors.
Walker said he was done in by the controversy surrounding allegations by Ellis. Ellis accused Walker of illegally offering him an opportunity to keep his job in the treasurer's office at a much higher salary if he'd agree to drop out of the race.
"I think it's proof of why people like to run a dirty campaign. They work," Walker said. "A lot of people told to me go negative and stuff, but that wasn't in me."
Walker, 32, would have been up for re-election this year to the House had he not run for treasurer. He resigned as a salesman for Zions Bank earlier this year to campaign and said he'll now be looking for a new job.
Ellis, who will face Democrat Dick Clark in November, said he wasn't sure how the allegations affected the election results. "I don't know how that has played, but I feel like I've filled my responsibility," he said.
The controversy dominated the race for an office that's usually all but ignored by voters.
Ellis filed an elections complaint May 30 with Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert and went to the Utah Supreme Court in an unsuccessful attempt to force Herbert to decide before the primary election whether the allegations merited further investigation by the Attorney General's Office.
Herbert waited until the polls closed Tuesday to announce he was turning over the allegations. It is not clear what happens now that Walker is out of the race, since the civil penalty for violating the elections statute is removal from office.
Walker had readied his own elections complaint that he said he would file after the primary, accusing Ellis of misusing state resources in his campaign and of conspiring to entrap Walker by soliciting the job offer.
But after Tuesday's defeat, Walker said he would not go forward with the complaint.
"I'm not going to file it," Walker said. "The public has had enough of one politician smearing another."
Ellis was endorsed by fellow Republican Ed Alter, who will have served as state treasurer for 28 years when he steps down in January. Walker had the support of a number of GOP leaders, including Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.That support helped Walker nearly eliminate Ellis at the state Republican Party Convention last month.