Zane Gill, who was defeated Saturday in his bid to become the Democratic attorney general nominee, Tuesday endorsed Paul Van Dam, the man who won the nomination, saying Democrats will work together to defeat GOP incumbent David Wilkinson.
Delegates to the Utah Democratic convention gave Van Dam 75 percent of their vote, thus nominating him and eliminating Gill. In a press conference called to show party unity, Gill said he may well have been hurt by the fact that delegates knew that two years ago he was a Republican delegate to that party's Salt Lake County convention.Gill said he attended a GOP mass meeting, interested in the political process in general, and didn't mean to be elected a delegate. He later resigned as a GOP delegate. But Saturday, Van Dam's campaign had photocopies made of a Deseret News story that profiled the Democratic candidates and included Gill's brush with Republicanism. The photocopies were placed on each seat in the auditorium.
Van Dam and Gill said they agreed some time ago to ask the state delegates to settle the nomination and not force a primary election, which they said would have harmed their run against Wilkinson.
"Zane is a good attorney and a good Democrat," said Van Dam. He added that Gill will work openly for his election. Asked if Gill may come to work in the attorney general's office should Van Dam be elected, Van Dam said he couldn't answer that question. "It is illegal to promise someone a job and I don't know what Zane's professional goals are. But certainly he is a fine attorney and the office needs fine attorneys."
Both men criticized Wilkinson, who is seeking his third four-year term.
Van Dam said Wilkinson's lack of leadership is causing a 20 percent-a-year turnover in the office. "Not all of the turnover is due to low salaries. It's leadership and a poor training program."
He said one of his goals is to hire more female and minority attorneys.
"There are fine professionals in the office now. I see this as taking over a team in midseason. You don't fire all the players. You provide new motivation and enthusiasm and you recruit for better teams ahead," Van Dam said.
Van Dam said he hopes to raise and spend $200,000 on the final election campaign. Recent polls show Van Dam 10 points behind Wilkinson with a third of the voters still undecided.