As Utah waits patiently for Governor Gary Herbert to announce the replacement for outgoing Lt. Governor Greg Bell, there’s one not-so-obvious choice for the position staring Herbert in the face.
Attorney General John Swallow.
Think about it. Picking Swallow solves a whole gaggle of problems facing Herbert and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Swallow’s ethical troubles are causing a lot of heartburn. Move him to the Lt. Governor’s office and poof! things immediately get better.
The House investigation of Swallow would likely stop in its tracks. That would placate critics who say the $3 million price tag for the investigation is too much. Ending the inquisition would also take away a huge distraction for lawmakers. The probe may run through December or later - pushing up against the start of the 2014 session. Nobody wants to have that hanging over their heads during January.
Putting Swallow as the #2 man takes him out of the public eye. As much as the Lt. Gov. is an important part of Utah’s executive branch, it’s not a position that garners much attention. Basically, this would be a way to exile Swallow without too much pain - Utah’s Elba if you will.
In the past, Herbert said he would fire Swallow if he worked for him. Here’s your chance! Hire him as the new Lt. Governor, then at some point down the road, ask for his resignation. No need to go through a messy impeachment or court battles.
This is a wonderful opportunity for Herbert to put his money where his mouth is. After announcing Swallow as his pick, Herbert wouldn’t even have to play nice during the subsequent press conference. Instead of extolling the virtues of Swallow, he could simply say “I’m doing this so I can fire him. The public wants him out of government. This would be the easiest and cleanest way to do that.”
He could make the case for hiring, then firing Swallow on fiscal grounds. “I’m saving the people of Utah millions of dollars,” he would be able to say. “It’s a fair trade.”
Even if Herbert didn’t want to make that kind of gutsy move, it would mark the end of John Swallow’s political career. If Herbert decides to run for another term in 2016, he could let Swallow know there’s no way he would be on the ticket. Easy peasy, lemon squeezie - Swallow is off the political stage and Utah moves on.
There’s no danger Swallow would try to run for Herbert’s job. He would be delusional to think he will be able to hold political office after this whole brouhaha.
Sometimes in sports, an aging athlete signs a contract with their first team so they can then immediately retire. This would be just like that - only in reverse. Swallow is “traded” to another branch of government where he could be shown the door.
It would also improve Utah’s image on the national stage. Right now we are a state with an ethically (and maybe legally) challenged Attorney General. This would allow us to have a soon-to-be fired ethically (and maybe legally) challenged Lt. Gov. Lots of states (I’m looking at you Virginia and Illinois) have executives with less-than-sterling reputations. Utah would just be stepping up to the big leagues of politics.
Moving Swallow to the shadows of the Lt. Governor’s office would help Republicans in 2014. How would Democrats be able to use the issue of John Swallow against them if he’s no longer the AG?
Herbert could burnish his reputation for heading up the best-run state in the union. He saw a problem and used an unorthodox solution to fix it. It would make him an immediate rock-star with the media and in some GOP circles.
It would be a bold move. Sadly, it’s one Governor Herbert would never make.