Republican Candidates vying to replace former Attorney General John Swallow, faced off in a debate on Wednesday night. They answered questions that came from across the state using the Utah Education Network’s video conferencing infrastructure.
While the evening was billed as a debate, the seven candidates largely agreed on most topics. But, one issue they couldn’t all agree on was whether or not the appointed Attorney General should run as a candidate in next year’s general election. Robert Smith, Michelle Mumford, Sean Reyes, Bret Rawson and Scott Burns believe that someone who can serve as the Attorney General past the general election is best suited to address the weaknesses of the office. While Brian Tarbet and Michael Wilkins think campaigning would take too much time away from fixing those internal problems. Wilkins says that while he doesn’t think the appointed AG should run for the office, the position isn’t just for a caretaker either.
“Caretaker sounds kind of soft, and I don’t think that’s at all what is demanded," Wilkins said. "I just think that it’s very difficult to be an excellent campaigner and an excellent fundraiser and also be there everyday in the chair doing the job of the Attorney General.”
In addressing the major topics of the night, all vowed in some way to evaluate and change personnel in the office, fight for Utah to take control of federal lands, and make sure the state retains the right to legalize or outlaw gay marriage. The only real attack from a candidate came during Scott Burns’ closing statement. He called out some of the other candidates for having ties to former AG John Swallow or his accusers.
“We don’t need anyone who is anywhere near associated with any of this mess," Burns said. "It is time for somebody that doesn’t know this people, that has no involvement, hasn’t been seen with them, hasn’t represented them, hasn’t defended them, to be the next Attorney General, because it will be impossible to regain public trust.”
Member of the GOP Central Committee will nominate three of these candidates in Salt Lake City on Saturday. Governor Herbert will appoint one of those nominees to replace John Swallow.