Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mark Shurtleff Suspends Campaign Against Utah Senator Bob Bennett For The Sake Of His Daughter's Health; Cherilyn Eagar Now The Lead Challenger

In a rather stunning development, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced on November 4th, 2009 that he is suspending his campaign to challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Bennett for the Republican nomination in 2010 in order to spend more time with a daughter whose mental health is reported to be deteriorating. She is suffering from depression. The most detailed story was published in the Salt Lake Tribune; other reports from KSL Channel 5, KSTU Channel 13 with video, and the Deseret News. Another Deseret News article refers to a 2006 series where Shurtleff and his now-17-year-old daughter Danielle talked about suicide struggles. KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of

The decision doesn't impact his present status as Utah's Attorney General, a position he's occupied since 2001. Here is Shurtleff's complete statement from his campaign website:

Today, I am announcing the suspension of my campaign for the U.S. Senate. This announcement comes with sorrow because I do want to serve my country, and I do believe both political parties have put this nation in grave danger by spending so foolishly that our children and grandchildren will have a difficult time recovering.

I have chosen to take pause because my daughter’s health is very fragile. She is struggling with emotional issues and has recently been placed in a treatment center. Her recovery depends on the focus and energy we give her as parents over the next several months. In the time since I announced my candidacy for the U.S. Senate, she has started experiencing severe mental health problems and is now in a treatment center. M’liss and I have been told by her doctors that we will be needed in numerous counseling sessions to give our daughter a chance of recovery.

Many of you know that I had a serious motorcycle accident a few years ago, and I would have lost my leg if I had not paused and taken the time to receive medical treatment to take care of it. I am not willing to lose my daughter, so I am suspending my campaign to care for her and my family. Most folks understand physical illness; it is my hope that people will learn how serious and dangerous mental illness can be.

I want to thank the thousands of supporters who have been by my side thus far. I ask for your prayers for my family and specifically my daughter. We don’t think our trials are any harder than rest of the world’s, but right now, we could use a little extra help.

To the citizens of Utah, rest assured, I will continue to do everything I can as Attorney General to protect you against identity theft, internet predators and anyone who tries to bring harm to the children and families of this great state.


Mark Shurtleff
November 04, 2009

Although technically Shurtleff said he was "suspending" his campaign -- meaning he could resume it later -- he made it clear during an interview on KSL's Doug Wright show that he had no plans to return to the race. Shurtleff, who was considered by the elite to be Bennett's lead challenger, had raised just $210,000 for his Senate campaign and had spent $63,805. In contrast, Bennett had already raised more than $2.7 million and spent more than $1.8 million in his re-election bid. But City Weekly's not so sure Shurtleff is out for good, because by federal election laws Shurtleff stands to face steep taxation and/or penalties if he doesn’t use the money he raised for his Senate campaign. They think it's possible Shurtleff might jump back in the race should his daughter's medical situation become stabilized.

Shurtleff was not unaware of this possibility when he decided to launch his Senate campaign. But at the time, he was led to believe his daughter's situation was under control. Obviously, his daughter's situation has deteriorated since that time, and Shurtleff now believes that both "quality time" AND "quantity time" are necessary to help his daughter. A subsequent Tribune article offers more details. Danielle had twice attempted suicide, but received help, returned to school and her grades were good. But Shurtleff said she had fallen into trouble and started to spiral out of control in a whole lot of self-destructive ways. She has now been in a residential treatment facility for five weeks, but Shurtleff said her treatment was going to require more time and support from her family. Complicating the issue is the fact that, after June 2010, when she turns 18, she can no longer be kept at the facility, but may still require further treatment.

There has been no recorded reaction yet from any of the other candidates. However, many public comments posted to the media stories are quite cynical, speculating on Shurtleff's "real" motives. As Bennett's most prominent challenger, Shurtleff had been the primary target of the Bennett campaign, with Bennett's operatives accusing Shurtleff of commingling state and federal campaign funds. There may eventually prove to be other factors contributing to Shurtleff's decision, but out of respect for his family situation, I will not explore them at this time. It takes a true family man to sacrifice his personal ambitions for the welfare of a family member.

Here's the expected impact upon the other candidates:

-- Incumbent Bob Bennett: His position has been noticeably strengthened. Bennett is now guaranteed at least enough delegates at the state Republican convention in 2010 to get a Republican primary slot, and there's now an outside chance he could even get the 60+ percent necessary to win renomination outright. His impressive war chest will permit him to flood the state with ads.

-- Cherilyn Eagar: She's now the lead challenger, and her position has been considerably strengthened. While she won't get the 60+ percent of delegates necessary to win the nomination outright, she has a excellent chance of making it into a primary contest against Bennett. Although Eagar should continue to question Bennett's conservative credentials, she should also turn her attention to Tim Bridgewater, a late entrant who has the support of some Republican insiders, to prevent him from sneaking up on her.

-- Tim Bridgewater: His position has been strengthened somewhat, primarily because the "McCainiac moderates" who were supporting Shurtleff are looking for an alternative, and Bridgewater was the Western Regional Campaign Director for John McCain in 2008. But Bridgewater now has the reputation of being a "perennial candidate" because of several unsuccessful attempts at elective office. Bridgewater does have an outside chance of making it into a Republican primary fight in 2010.

-- James Williams: His position has been marginally strengthened. The primary impact is that this decision may motivate Williams, who thinks much the same way as Cherilyn Eagar, to remain in the race longer than anticipated, despite the fact that he appears to be an also-ran at this point. Williams is also part of the Campaign for Liberty.

-- Sam Granato: Being the sole Democrat in the race, Shurtleff's decision has no short-term impact upon Granato's campaign.


Anonymous said...

I wish Shurtleff and family the best.

"While she won't get the 60+ percent of delegates necessary to win the nomination outright, she has a excellent chance of making it into a primary contest against Bennett"

You are assuming Bennett can get 40% of the vote in convention, something that was not obvious this last June.

I do think Eagar has the ability to get 60% plus on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd ballot.

Deseret Dawg said...

Bennett has helped himself somewhat by pushing a bill to require the Census Bureau to count illegals. In addition, he has a gargantuan war chest to flood the state with ads. This is why I think he'll get enough to qualify for a primary fight.

But I just don't want Eagar and those of us who support her to get overconfident. Eagar still has a tough fight ahead, and who knows how much impact Bridgewater will have.