Campaign postcard condemned
November 8, 2006
A mysterious postcard touting the prospects of Democrats, including incumbent Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer, and other ballot items seen as West Side favorites circulated as Election Day approached, prompting calls that the postcard is a sham meant to discourage people from Park City and the Basin from voting.
The postcard says that a group calling itself Democrats For a Better Summit County paid for the mailing. It is believed that the group did not appear until the postcards were mailed. Prominent Democrats in Summit County claim that they have not heard of such an organization.
The postcards apparently arrived last weekend, as candidates were rallying during the last days of campaigning. The postcard prominently says "Election update! Democrats head into Park City elections with commanding lead in all key races! Look forward to another Democrat victory!"
It says that Richer leads in polls and "will easily be re-elected." It also says that polls show that voters support open-space measures and that "the majority" of people in Summit County prefer a five-member county council.
"It’s dirty tricks run amok," Richer, a Democrat from the Snyderville Basin, says.
The postcard lists a return address of 1351 Kearns Blvd., the address of the Centura Emporium. Rodman Jordan, who has interests in the Emporium, and people at the businesses there are unaware of such an organization with offices at the address.
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The Utah Elections Office online database does not list such an organization as spending money during Election 2006.
Richer claims he is aware of who led the efforts but refuses to publicize the person or group. He says he previously had not heard of Democrats for a Better Summit County.
The appearance of the postcards was a late campaign surprise in an election season that was unexpectedly fierce. The ballot was one of the broadest in Summit County’s history, with voters choosing local, state and federal offices as well as whether to change Summit County’s form of government and deciding on a $20 million open-space bond in Park City, among other decisions. Richer was competing against Bill Miles, a Republican.
The postcards have upset activists encouraging people to vote and have prompted a query into whether campaign laws were broken by the mailers.
Mike Marty, a Democrat who has long been seen as a West Side detractor, and Rob Weyher, the chairman of the Summit County Democratic Party, who has enraged locals Democrats with campaign donations outside the party, deny involvement in the group.
Meanwhile, Tim Douglas, who is a leader in the No Vote, No Voice campaign, which is using newspaper advertisements and signs to encourage people to vote, says the postcard is attempting to "make people complacent."
"If you’re cheering people on before the election, why don’t you say seal the deal" by voting, Douglas says. "It’s very frustrating. This is exactly what we don’t want people to do."
Turnout is traditionally strongest in Summit County on the East Side, where people from North Summit and South Summit typically vote in larger percentages than in Park City and the Basin.
Daniel Sheinberg, who lives on Lucky John Drive, received the postcard in his mail on Saturday and says he questioned its motives.
"It seemed to me the flier was part of a disinformation campaign to encourage Democrats (that) they have nothing to worry about," he says.
Jordan, from the Emporium listed as the return address, says each business tenant, to his knowledge, supports Richer. He alleges that supporters of Miles have been stealing Richer signs from the property.
Jordan suggests that the tenants’ support of Richer may have influenced the mailers’ decision to list the address.
"It’s just bad politics. I’ve never seen it as dirty," Jordan says.
Steve Dougherty, Jordan’s attorney and a member of the committee that recommended that voters be asked whether to change Summit County’s form of government, alleges that Democrats For a Better Summit County does not exist. He does not provide evidence, however. Dougherty says the postcards might violate elections laws but he is unsure if he will pursue a case.
"This could be a significant tampering with the election," he says.