List of Candidates Hoping to Replace Swallow Small, but Expected to Grow (Updated)

One would expect that about every Republican attorney in Utah would be interested in being appointed state Attorney General.

But as of Monday afternoon, with five days left to officially register, only five people (all men) have filed to fill the office.


The deadline is Friday, Dec. 6 at 5 p.m. to register with the Utah State Republican Party.

You can read the names here.

Two, Bret Rawson and Sean Reyes, ran against soon-to-be-former GOP AG John Swallow last year. Rawson lost in the state Republican convention, Reyes made it to the June party primary, where Swallow defeated him.

Another, Brent Ward, is a long-time prosecutor and former federal District Attorney for Utah.

Ward worked on prosecutions of people who have made accusations against Swallow, which basically broke open to the public other allegations against the AG.

Ultimately, the feds decided not to file any charges against Swallow – who resigned 10 days ago just before a damning investigation report by a special Elections Office counsel was released to the public.

The fourth is Scott Burns, the former Iron County attorney. He’s an interesting choice, since he’s lived outside the state for more than a decade, most recently living in Washington, D.C., as head of a prosecutor’s association. Burns twice ran for AG, in 1992 and 1996, losing both times to the Democratic nominee Jan Graham.

He’s the former Drug Czar under President George W. Bush. Burns was considered for U.S. Attorney for Utah, but ultimately President Barack Obama picked another GOP attorney for the job.

The fifth to file for AG is former Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Wilkins. Wilkins, who retired from the court several years ago, says he would serve through 2014 but would not run for the office next year.

By law, because the statewide office was vacated before mid-term elections, whomever is appointed by the governor to the post would have to run next year to serve out the final two years of the four-year term.

The 182-member state GOP Central Committee will meet Dec. 14 to officially vote on the new appointee.

If only the five registered Monday are in the race, then only two will be eliminated.

Three names will go up to GOP Gov. Gary Herbert. He will appoint the temporary replacement, who will serve over the next 12 months.

Then whoever wins in November 2014 will serve from January 2015 until January 2017.

In November 2016 the AG winner will serve the regular four-year term and the AG’s office will be back on schedule with other statewide elected officials.

Since Swallow is a Republican, Herbert must pick a Republican attorney for the job.

While three names will be sent up, it is expected Central Committee members will vote until one of the candidates is the clear leader.

And while Herbert could pick one of the two who finished second or third, most likely the governor would go along with the Central Committee and pick the first-place finisher.

Slowly, over the last several days, various folks who could have had an eye on the AG’s office have taken themselves out of the running.

State Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem – who has talked about running for AG or governor over the last decade – told KSL Radio’s Doug Wright that he won’t be filing for the office now. He has some good reasons. (See below.)

State Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, has also been named, but shows litter interest. (Urquhart sponsored a civil rights bill to give gay and lesbian Utahns protection in employment and housing, and the conservative Central Committee may not look kindly on that.)

Several state House members are also reportedly interested, as well.

You can read a list of the Central Committee members who will be voting on the nominees here. Click on State Central Committee Members and an Excel spreadsheet will open up.

By far most of the CC members were elected in the 2012 state party convention by the 4,000 or so delegates.

The Central Committee is really the boss of the Utah Republican Party. While the party’s Executive Committee, made up of elected party leaders, make the day-to-day decisions, the budget and special operations are approved by the CC, which normally meets quarterly.

Automatically members of the CC are statewide officers – like the governor – U.S. senators and House members, the national committeeman and woman and the state party elected offices — the chairman, vice chairman, treasurer and secretary.

Thus Herbert, if he decides to do so, will get to vote Dec. 14 on which of the three names to send up to himself. (It’s good to be governor.)

The CC votes are secret, the public will not know who the CC members voted for.

Valentine tells UtahPolicy his thinking about not seeking the interim AG post goes like this:

— The interim AG takes office around the first of the year. Almost immediately he has to appear before the general legislative session to defend his budget and deal with other legislative matters.

— He also has to start organizing his delegates and begin raising campaign money. (Swallow spent well over $1 million on his 2012 election – and his fund raising was a big part of his problems.)

— In mid-March, just a week after the general session ends, are the party caucuses. “You have to be out on the campaign trail with the delegates before the caucuses,” said Valentine.

— You are doing all this budget-defending, campaign fund raising and delegate-wooing while “you are supposed to be cleaning up your shop.”

Something would have to give – there is simply too much work to be done in too short a time – if the interim AG is going to run for the office in the fall of next year, Valentine believes.

And Valentine would have to close down his private law practice of 34 years all with the hope that he would win that November 2014 election.

It’s best to let someone come into the interim AG appointment who IS NOT going to run next year, says Valentine.

That takes the fund raising and campaigning out of the equation, making the job of cleaning up the AG’s office – restoring morale and integrity – the top and basically the only priority.

Now, always the politician, Valentine doesn’t take himself out of play in 2014 or in 2016 in the AG’s race.

“I’m not announcing anything now,” he told UtahPolicy. Those decisions will come later, he added.

“But I’m not counting out 2014 or 2016.”

The delegates may see all of this differently – as may the Central Committee members, says Valentine.

They may vote for a temporary AG who is going to run in 2014. And then vote for that person again in the spring of next year at the state GOP convention.

But Valentine says he would question an interim AG candidate who believes he can do all the work needed in the Attorney General’s Office over the next 12 months and still run an effective statewide campaign.

“I think it is impossible to do both. It makes sense to me for someone to go in (to the office) over the next 12 months, do the work, and leave.”

(Update) State GOP Secretary Michelle Mumford has added her name to the list of candidates for Attorney General.