Leaders of the Utah Democratic Party are calling on Governor Gary Herbert to hold a special election to replace Attorney General John Swallow, instead of appointing the replacement himself. But, there might not be a legal path for what the Democrats want.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis claims that because Swallow allegedly violated Utah election law, the election itself was a fraud and never happened. And because the election never happened, Swallow was never the Attorney General and so he can’t resign from an office he never held. He wants Governor Herbert to call a special election immediately.
“John Swallow, it is our contention, cheated in his filing forms and he was disqualified from the election, not from office," Dabakis says. "So, there is no vacancy in the office.”
But the law may not allow the Democrats to achieve their goals. The Lieutenant Governor hasn’t decided if his office will ask a judge to invalidate the election because Swallow has already resigned. And even if a judge were to invalidate the election, the Utah law lays a clear path for how to fill that vacancy: the Governor will appoint a replacement from three nominees selected by the state central committee of the same political party as the previous office holder. That replacement would remain in office until the public can vote on candidates in the next general election in November 2014.
Tim Chambliss is with the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. He says as much as the Democrats would like to, they can’t just erase the 11 months John Swallow served.
“John Swallow as elected on November 6, he took office shortly after the beginning of the year, January of 2013, and has served in the capacity of Attorney General for 11 months. That is a fact.”
Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans issued a statement that says, barring an order from a judge, the GOP will proceed with their planned meeting on December 14 where they will choose three nominees for the Governor to consider.
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