SALT LAKE CITY (AP/KSL News) -- The Utah Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Wednesday to keep Republican Ellis Ivory's name off the ballot for county mayor.
"The issue for us is whether the leaders of the Republican Party are following the spirit and letter of the law," said Utah Democratic Party Chairman Donald Dunn.
The lawsuit was filed against Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, a Democrat, and questions whether her office has properly removed Nancy Workman's name from the ballot.
Workman, the Republican incumbent mayor, dropped her re-election bid after she was charged with two felony counts of misusing public funds. But to get her name off the ballot, she had to produce a note from her doctor saying she was physically or mentally disabled.
"My doctor has strongly advised that, in his opinion, with the extraordinary stress of the ongoing prosecution, I cannot continue a political campaign without unreasonably compromising my health," Workman said when producing a note from her doctor.
The note appeared to clear a path for Ivory, a wealthy Salt Lake valley developer, to elevate himself from write-in to ballot candidate.
Critics, led by Democrats but joined by some Republicans, have questioned whether Workman is actually disabled, and claimed she was manipulating Utah's election law to ensure a GOP victory by getting Ivory's name on the ballot.
Once Workman's legal problems emerged, Democrats sniffed a chance for a rare victory in conservative Utah when their candidate, Peter Corroon, took a healthy lead in the polls over the troubled Workman and independent Merrill Cook.
But those prospects were jeopardized when Workman dropped out and Republicans rallied around Ivory, a popular businessman who's vowed to institute tough polices aimed at avoiding future fiscal mischief in the mayor's office.
The Democrats' lawsuit is challenging whether the note provided by Workman met the legal requirements of her being mentally or physically disabled as certified by a physician.
However, the legality of the disputed doctor's note was supported by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office, which recently said the letter meets Utah election code because state law doesn't account for what kind of medical certification is necessary for quitting a race.
Dunn said he respects the district attorney's opinion, but he said his party's lawyer has a different interpretation.
Judge Stephen Henriod was scheduled to hear the Democrat's challenge Wednesday afternoon.
Last week, Dunn said the party would not file a lawsuit if either Workman or her lawyer signed a note saying that she was disabled.
He repeated that Wednesday, saying, "Sign this note, and we're done. No lawsuit."
"The law we believe is very clear that a doctor must certify someone as mentally or physically disabled. The Democratic Party wants a fair and legal election and we're hoping for a very speedy decision," Dunn said.
In a press conference Wednesday morning, Democratic Mayoral candidate Peter Corroon says he doesn't support the Democrats lawsuit, and says the voters should decide.
Ivory emerged as a Republican write-in candidate before Workman dropped out of the race. The county officially filed papers making him the official GOP candidate Wednesday morning, about an hour before the Democrats filed the lawsuit.
All this comes to a head Wednesday afternoon. A judge is set to hear this case at 2pm.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)