And they’re off — candidates file for Utah elections
Filing deadline • Democratic attorney general hopeful is trying a new approach to job promotion – challenge the boss.
Published: March 21, 2014 09:16AM
Updated: March 21, 2014 01:38PM
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File photo Sean Reyes, a Utah delegate to the National Republican Convention, says the GOP suffers from an image problem. Once the conversation gets beyond immigration, he says the party has a lot of appeal to Latinos.

Charles Stormont is taking an unusual path for career advancement — filing this week to unseat his boss, current Attorney General Sean Reyes.

He is one of scores of candidates who filed this week to run for state offices across Utah and one of four vying to fill the remaining two years on former Attorney General John Swallow’s term.

Stormont, an assistant attorney general running for the seat as a Democrat, said he was struck watching a scandal engulf his ex-boss, Swallow, that someone needed to do something.

“It just clicked,” Stormont said. “I want to be able to tell [my kids] in a couple decades if they ask, ‘What did you do about all these problems?’”

Reyes, the Republican who replaced Swallow in December, promising to overhaul the beleaguered office, says his reforms are starting to take hold.

“I am encouraged that, with more time in the office, I can continue to work alongside the many A.G. attorneys and staff to defend and protect Utah,” Reyes said in announcing his election bid.

Reyes and Stormont differ on whether the state should be defending its ban on same-sex marriage, which was struck down by a federal judge in December. Reyes hired outside attorneys to handle the appeal, arguing it’s his job to defend Utah laws. The appeal is pending.

Stormont says he would join several other states that have opted not to defend their marriage bans.

“The arguments that are being put forward are not meritorious ones and I wouldn’t spend taxpayer money pushing a fight just for the sake of fighting,” he said.

Contests for Congress • In the congressional races, Republican Mia Love is again seeking the 4th District seat, after having narrowly lost to Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson in 2012. Matheson has opted to retire, and instead Democrats are putting forward Doug Owens, an attorney and son of former U.S. Rep. Wayne Owens.

Love will first have to get past Republican businessman and former state economic-development officer Bob Fuehr and Jennifer Johnson, who manages an investment fund. Owens is vying for the Democratic nomination with Bill Peterson, an engineer.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Chris Stewart is seeking re-election against a trio of Republican challengers — St. George attorney Larry Meyers, Zachary Hartman and Vaughn Hatton. The nominee will go up against Democratic state Sen. Luz Robles.

Donna McAleer, who ran against Republican Rep. Rob Bishop in 2012, is seeking a re-match in the 1st Congressional District, but has to face fellow Democrat Peter Clemens, an Ogden physician, for the party’s nomination. David Chiu is challenging Bishop for the GOP nomination.

There also are candidates from the Libertarian, Constitution and Independent American parties running for the seats, as well as unaffiliated candidates.

Fifteen current state legislators — 13 Republicans and two Democrats — will not have a challenger from the opposing party this year. That includes Rep. Jim Dunnigan, the Taylorsville Republican who was chairman of the committee that investigated Swallow, and Rep. Francis Gibson, who was a member of the committee.

One prominent House race pits Rep. Dana Layton against former Rep. Brad Daw in their Orem district. Layton beat Daw in a brutal 2012 Republican primary, with outside attacks bombarding Daw. It was later revealed that the attacks were fueled by money from payday lenders who laundered cash through non-profits set up by Jason Powers, a consultant to Swallow, the former AG.

Democrat Archie Williams will face the eventual GOP nominee.

Familiar faces • Other former legislators also are looking to return to the body:

• Former state Sen. Ross Romero is looking to return to the Legislature, replacing Sen. Pat Jones, who is retiring. He is being challenged by former Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jani Iwamoto. Republicans will choose between Holladay City Councilwoman Sabrina Peterson and Philip Carlson, a nurse, for the party’s nominee.

• Former Sen. Casey Anderson is looking for a re-match with Sen. Evan Vickers, who won their 2012 Republican primary in their Southern Utah district.

• Former Rep. Fred Cox is hoping to return to the House, after redistricting threw him in with Democratic Rep. Janice Fisher, who is retiring. Cox will face Carbon Lundgren in the Republican contest. The winner will go against Mike Lee — not the U.S. Senator — who is a Salt Lake Count police officer and AFL-CIO vice president.

• Rep. Brian Greene is being challenged by former Rep. Holly Richardson, who held the House seat until she resigned to run Dan Liljenquist’s U.S. Senate race. They are also facing Republican John Stevens, who Greene beat in the 2012 Republican primary. A pair of Democrats — Jim Thorne and Michael Plowman — are seeking their party’s nomination in the Pleasant Grove seat.

• A pair of former Price-area legislators are running against Republican Rep. Jerry Anderson. Former Rep. Christine Watkins lost to Anderson in the 2012 election. This time, Watkins is running against Anderson as a Republican. And former Rep. Brad King who was in the Legislature for 12 years until 2008, is running as a Democrat. Bill Labrum is also in the Republican contest.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke