By TAD WALCH and DONALD W. MEYERS

The Daily Herald

PROVO -- A Utah County public defender has a 16-vote lead over incumbent Republican David Leavitt in the race for Juab County attorney.

Jared Eldridge, the Democratic candidate, leads Leavitt 1,357-1,341. Absentee ballots, which had to be postmarked by Tuesday, will be counted Nov. 18.

"It's still really up in the air," said Eldridge, who has represented destitute defendants for two years in Utah County and two years in Salt Lake County.

"There could be as many as 200 absentee ballots, so they could swing the election either way," he said.

Leavitt, who is the brother of Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, earned national attention for prosecuting polygamist Tom Green. Leavitt successfully prosecuted Green on four counts of bigamy, one count of criminal nonsupport and one count of child rape for marrying then-13-year-old Linda Kunz Green in 1986.

John Bucher, Green's attorney, said the prosecution of his client may have been a contributing factor in Leavitt's apparent defeat.

"It may be a backlash against the expense and publicity of the Green prosecution," Bucher said.

But Leavitt said he did not think Green was a factor in the campaign.

"If I had thought I would lose the election if I prosecuted Tom Green, I would do it again," Leavitt said. "It's not about politics. It's about recognizing that this state has a problem and dealing with it."

Leavitt said there are at least 50 ballots remaining to be counted, but said he's more than prepared to hand over the reins to Eldridge.

Eldridge said he ran on a promise to work full time on county matters.

Leavitt said he is a full-time county attorney, even though he is part of the Provo law firm of Fillmore, Belliston and Israelsen, where he is listed as a civil litigation and arbitration, land-use planning and governmental attorney. Leavitt said his county duties keep him too busy to do much work for the private firm.

"Am I associated with a Provo law firmfi Sure. Do I do any work for themfi Not much," Leavitt said. He said he does not have an office in Provo and spends little time working with the firm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A8.

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