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Salt Lake Co. DA’s race may be close

Posted at 5:36 PM, Oct 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-31 00:04:21-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The intersection of 7800 South and Redwood Road was the battleground for Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and his Republican challenger, Steve Nelson.

The two staged honk and wave events at the same intersection on Thursday, but at different times of day.

A recent poll by UtahPolicy.com found Gill with just a 9-percentage point lead over Nelson, a prosecutor in the DA's office challenging his boss.

"The message I'm taking to voters is it's my experience that makes me a better candidate," Nelson told FOX 13. "I've been a prosecutor for 12 years. I've tried homicides, felony gang cases, sex offenses."

Gill said Nelson is a good trial attorney, but touted his own abilities as a district attorney.

"This is a much more complicated and nuanced office than simply going to court," he told FOX 13. "It's about management, it's about resources, it's about policy, it's about leadership."

Gill has faced criticism in his first term as DA over prosecutions including former West Valley City Police detective Shaun Cowley and the corruption cases against former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff.

Nelson declined to say if he would have filed charges in either case, but questioned the fairness of some of Gill's moves. Nelson pointed out that he has endorsements from police and firefighters' unions.

"I'd like to repair the relationship between law enforcement and the district attorney's office," he said.

Gill said he has bipartisan support, including endorsements from Republican mayors.

"We haven't shied away from the difficult questions or challenges that have been presented to us," Gill said. "I work with law enforcement. I do not work for law enforcement. I work for the citizens of Salt Lake County."

Gill said if re-elected, he would work more on criminal justice reforms including more resources for veterans and therapeutic options for criminal defendants. He also wanted to ensure the construction of a new building for county lawyers.

If elected, Nelson said he would like to bring back a domestic violence prosecution unit dismantled under Gill.