Salt Lake County GOP gears up to find a replacement for Gary Ott

The election to replace Gary Ott as Salt Lake County Recorder could be a wild affair with 10 or more candidates joining the fray.

The Salt Lake County GOP Central Committee will meet on August 17 at Jordan High School to pick a replacement after Ott resigned from his position on Tuesday.

Jake Parkinson, the chair of the Salt Lake County GOP, says there are eight candidates who have expressed interest in the job to him so far.

“That number will likely grow because the barrier for entry is so low and the reward is significant,” says Parkinson. “There’s no filing deadline, there’s no process, we accept nominations from the floor, and someone can nominate themselves. All we do is verify that they are a registered Republican residing in the county.”

Parkinson was a guest on the “Beg to Differ” podcast with Managing Editor Bryan Schott and Republican Rep. Mike Winder.

Some of the more recognizable names who have already declared for the position include Republican Rep. Adam Gardiner, current interim County Recorder Julie Dole, former Salt Lake County Vice Chair Scott Miller and Melvin Nimer. Sources also say that current Salt Lake County Council member Max Burdick also intends to jump into the race.

Parkinson says the actual election will be quick because they use a process called multiple-round majority voting. During each round of voting, any candidate that doesn’t make it into the top half of the vote total will be eliminated until one candidate wins a majority.

Ott resigned from his office after his family was appointed guardianship over him because of his declining mental faculties. It had been speculated that Ott’s condition had been worsening for years, especially after he was found wandering in Tooele County last year. There were accusations that Dole, who was Ott’s chief deputy, was covering up Ott’s condition. The County Party censured Ott for that last year, which Dole contends was a political move.

Now, ahead of the election to replace Ott, the SL County GOP executive committee voted to launch an investigation into Dole’s role in the office and whether there was any wrongdoing.

Parkinson says the executive committee will complete their investigation at their meeting before the election on the 17th.

“Republicans believe in efficiency, so we will not be taking the Sim Gill approach to an investigation,” said Parkinson, taking a shot at Democratic Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill who has been investigating the Gary Ott situation for months, a process that has irked many who were hoping for a swifter conclusion.

“This will be over with in the next few weeks and we will discuss it further in a closed session of our executive committee meeting. That’s the intention. We want to clear the air. If there’s nothing to be found, we want to clear the air. If there is something, we want those concerns to be addressed before that point.”

Parkinson says he’s not worried the investigation may affect the outcome of the election later that night.

“The number one priority of the Republican party is protecting its brand and protecting the way we’re perceived by voters. There’s obviously a concern expressed by many right now concerning different things that have gone on in the recorder’s office. That’s our #1 priority,” he said. “I don’t want to sway voters, and I’m gonna say, precinct chairs are very intelligent. They know the issues. They’re not going to be swayed. If they see something as a political move, they’re not going to be swayed by that. If you know the history of the party and you’ve attended these meetings, you’ll see a long tradition of shenanigans. If they detect any sort of shenanigans taking place, it will not bode well. They do not like that. This isn’t reactionary. This isn’t to taint an election. The concern here and the concern from the executive committee is that the brand of the Republican party in the county would be tarnished if they find something that is actionable. Right now, we don’t know if they will find something.”