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Bill Freeze, president of the Utah County Association of Realtors, said Thursday he is running as a write-in candidate for the county commission, citing concerns about Republican nominee Greg Graves' financial track record that came to light after Graves won the nomination.
"Revelations about Greg Graves' qualifications are leading many political, business and community leaders to lose confidence in his ability to serve," Freeze said in a statement. "I decided to take the challenge to become a write-in candidate and offer the community a viable alternative because character matters and we can do better."
Freeze's entry into the field presents an unusual challenge to Graves, who appeared to be assured being the next commissioner after winning the GOP nomination in April. There is no Democrat or third-party candidate in the race.
It appears to be the first serious write-in campaign since Ellis Ivory mounted a write-in bid for Salt Lake County mayor in 2004 as the Republican nominee at the time, Nancy Workman, was facing charges of misusing public funds allegations of which she was acquitted months later.
Thad Hall, a political science professor at the University of Utah, said a write-in campaign takes a lot of organization, but it can be pulled off if the candidate is vulnerable.
"He really has to do a lot of on-the-ground stuff, where he's got to reach out to people and explain to them why they're not going to vote for the default candidate," said Hall. That means alerting voters going to the polling places that there is a write-in candidate, but also those who cast absentee ballots or those who vote early. "If it's an easy case to sell this guy is a nice guy with bad judgment, vote for me it could work," Hall said.
Graves knocked off Utah County Commission Chairman Gary Anderson to win the Republican Party's nod. But shortly after he clinched the nomination, it came to light that Graves has filed several bankruptcies and had entered into a plea deal on a theft charge in 2000.
Utah County Republican Chairman Casey Voecks said the party has its nominee in Graves and it will stick with him.
"This is what people can do and it's the process," Voecks said. "The nominee [Graves] has already gone through the process and got the nomination and he's done what he needs to do."
Some in the Utah County GOP had sought to replace Graves as the nominee, but the attempt to dump Graves never got traction and he continued as the party's nominee. "People didn't want to discuss it, so the central committee is pretty decided on it," Voecks said.
Graves, who ran on a platform of solving Utah County's debt, has said he was forced into bankruptcy in 2001 by medical bills and credit-card debt after he was involved in a serious car accident in 1995 in which he "should have died."
Graves' second bankruptcy was filed in 2008, after going through a divorce. Graves said his ex-wife had debt-collection actions against her and the only way to avoid creditors coming after him was to file for bankruptcy.
Court records show he wasn't working at the time and had about $75,000 in student loan, credit card and medical debt.
Freeze, 62, said the county must be fiscally responsible, "but his own personal track record doesn't lend any credibility to his stance and bankruptcy is not a solution."
Freeze is a businessman, Realtor and member of the county chamber of commerce.
Graves could not immediately be reached for comment.
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