HubCap Spin: Where the Rubber Meets the Road is a collaborative effort of Utah Political Capital (UPC) and Utah Politico Hub (the Hub). One person from each site answers a questions about upcoming races, elections, and issues.
Due to scandals that have left the previous two Attorneys General indicted, the Supreme Court Appeal of Kitchen v. Herbert, and a number of other high profile cases, the race for Utah Attorney General is among the most watched in Utah this year.
QUESTION: Who will win the race for Attorney General? Democrat Charles Stormont or Republican Sean Reyes?
CURTIS HARING (UPC): In some ways, it almost seems odd to even ask who the victor will be in the race for the next Attorney General.
Despite a solid effort from the Democrat, Charles Stormont, current Attorney General, Republican Sean Reyes, seems set for a full-fledged four-year term.
So, why even bother to bring up this race, let alone make it the first HubCap collaboration? It is because of who didn’t appear on the ballot this year that matters: John Swallow.
Though Stormont has battled to have his message heard, and though he alludes to the Swallow scandal, he and his Democratic party have failed to use, let alone capitalize, on what many could argue is the worst political scandal in Utah history.
Had the Swallow scandal never broke, it is quite possible that we would be discussing the inevitable victory of Swallow over Stormont in two years. But the failure of the Democrats to even mention Swallow beyond the casual murmurings of insiders has all but doomed Stormont to defeat.
Why? Because, the Utah Democratic Party has chosen a by-the-book campaign strategy for Stormont that has consistently created 30 to 40 point losses for Democrats in statewide races.
Would even some capitalization on the Swallow sandal have resulted in victory for Stormont and the Democrats? Who knows? But what is known is that Democrats were handed a once-in-a-generation, perhaps even lifetime, scandal that would have highlighted the importance of breaking down a one party system, and instead opted not to rock the boat for fear of…not…upsetting…Republicans?
It will never be known if Stormont would have been victorious in this bizarro universe. What is known is that in this universe, the Democrats sticking to the status quo has assured defeat for Stormont.
DANIEL BURTON (the Hub): The real question about the Attorney General race is not who will win (that’ll be current Attorney General Sean Reyes), but by how much.
Reyes is facing General Election voters for the first time, and while he’s been in the news more often than typical for a work-horse Attorney General due to the number of high profile cases Utah is involved in, he’s still a relatively new face in Utah politics. Voters will be impressed by Reyes’ extensive legal experience and leadership in the Utah bar, partnership at a young age in one of Utah’s premier law firms, and aggressive efforts to restore the public’s trust to the Attorney General’s office.
It hasn’t hurt Reyes that his opponent, Charles Stormont, can’t seem to catch a break, either, despite energetic campaign efforts. Every time the Democrat holds a press conference, Stormont finds himself competing with breaking news, whether it’s the 10th Circuit handing down its decision to uphold Kitchen v. Herbert or something else, and there’s nothing sexy to voters about Stormont’s tent-pole campaign issue to create yet another ethics body. Ethics as an issue just doesn’t win elections when your opponent is a family guy with a track record of upholding the law.
That said, Reyes is still a new name for Utah voters. Reyes can expect to win with between 63% (first time candidates for Attorney General in Utah tend to get between 64 and 65%, but none of them were running after a major scandal affecting the previous office holder of the same party) and 68% (Governor Gary Herbert picked up 68.4% in 2012 and Mark Shurtleff pulled down 69% in 2008, but both were much better known to voters at that point).