Gov. Gary Herbert appointed Brian Tarbet as interim attorney general until he chooses a long-term replacement for the position after former Attorney General John Swallow’s resignation on Tuesday in response to several allegations of wrongdoing.
Jim Dibakis, party chair for the Utah Democratic party, urged those responsible for replacing Swallow to carefully consider candidates before appointing a new attorney general.
“It will be a complete abomination for the state of Utah if the next AG is in the Swallow/Shurtleff model,” Dibakis said in a press release. “The next AG simply must be a caretaker, who can focus entirely on restoring integrity and public trust in the state’s highest law enforcement office. It must not be someone who is going to spend the next year running for office. It is ugly to imagine a political figure moving into the office and immediately restarting the fundraising machine that led Utah to this sad state of affairs.”
Dibakis said Democrats will support the selection of a “caretaker attorney general,” meaning someone who would not run for office again but would use their time as attorney general to restore the trust and respect of Utahns.
“We need an AG who can immediately go about restoring the AG’s office to honor and prestige,” Dibakis said in the press release. “Regaining the lost public trust is paramount in this situation.”
Officials from the good government group Alliance for a Better UTAH released a statement calling for change in the new attorney general office. They said voters feel their vote no longer matters because of a “gamed system” and the Lt. Governor’s decision to not pursue civil action only strengthens this belief.
“Instead of empowering Utahns to make strong electoral choices, the Lt. Governor’s decision gives further evidence to the belief that what ordinary Utahns think doesn’t matter,” said the group in its statement. “Per usual, a few power holders are calling the shots while Utahns are forced to live with the consequences.”
Although Swallow resigned from office in response to the allegation, he said he still vigorously maintains his innocence.
“I have broken no laws and have vowed to fight for my honor and good name with my very last dollar,” Swallow said during a press conference on Nov. 21.
He also said he believes the House investigation over his case was calculated to drive him from office.
“They had all the resources of the state at their disposal, and they knew that I only had the resources of my personal family,” he said.
Attorney General candidates have until Friday at 5 p.m. to submit applications to the Utah Republican Party.