Resignation leaves questions about Utah AG

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Republicans are moving forward with finding a temporary replacement for Utah Attorney General John Swallow, who announced his resignation Thursday.

Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican, will choose one of three party-recommended candidates to fill Swallow’soffice until a special election can be held next November.

The party’s governing body, made up of 180 top Republicans and regional representatives, will make a selection Dec. 14.

But in light of a new report Friday from the state elections office that found Swallow likely broke election laws last year, Democrats said they’re poised to challenge that process.

Executive Director Matt Lyon said the Utah Democratic Party is working with attorneys to mount a legal argument that Swallow should never have been on the ballot in the first place, and therefore Swallow’sDemocratic challenger could be the default winner or a special election should be held now.

“The people of Utah should elect the next attorney general, not the murky backrooms of the closed Republican caucus and the same delegates who are responsible for John Swallow and this mess in the first place,” Jim Dabakis, the state Democratic chairman, said in a statement Friday.

Lyon said the party is also waiting to see how Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, will handle the elections report.

Cox, whose office oversees elections, can pursue civil penalties against Swallow in court. If a judge deems there was a violation, the judge could rule the election was invalid and the attorney general’s office should be vacated.

Cox said he’ll make a decision on the matter in a few days.

Mark Thomas, Cox’s chief deputy and the state director of elections, said Friday that whether Swallow’sresignation stands or if the judge orders the office vacated, the replacement procedure would be the same.

Anyone occupying the attorney general’s office would have to be a lawyer who is at least 25 years old and in good standing with the Utah State Bar.

Tim Chambless of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics said he thinks there’s a good chance the next pick will be someone already in the Legislature.

He thinks Sen. John Valentine and Sen. Stephen Urquhart both seem like prime candidates.

Urquhart and Valentine did not return messages Friday seeking comment.

Bret Rawson, a Salt Lake City attorney, said Friday afternoon that he wants to be considered for the interim post. Rawson is also a police officer and serves as general counsel for the state’s police union.

In a statement late Friday, Salt Lake City attorney Sean Reyes said he is vying for the position as well.

Reyes lost to Swallow in last year’s primary election.

 

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