Swallow wins GOP primary over Reyes 2 to 1 in A.G.'s race

Published June 26, 2012 11:38 pm

Politics • Sean Reyes concedes in race to replace Mark Shurtleff; Swallow will face Dee Smith in November.
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John Swallow will take on Dee Smith in November for Utah attorney general after he defeated Sean Reyes in the Republican primary 68 percent to 32 percent in unofficial results.

Reyes called to concede a little after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"He was very gracious and said I had his endorsement," Swallow said.

Swallow said the campaign will take a few days to "catch our breath" and then get ready to take on Smith, the Weber County attorney and Democratic nominee for attorney general.

"We'll organize and worry about how we can get our message out to all of Utah ­not just voters in the Republican Party — about my vision for leading the office of the attorney general forward from today."

Sean Reyes said he was proud of the campaign.

"We worked harder than anybody I know and ran with honor and integrity," Reyes said.

The fight for the nomination was marked by more than $1 million in spending by both candidates — with the edge in spending going to Swallow.

It was also defined by the entrance of an out-of-state Super PAC that was sued by Reyes for defamation by trotting out ads that depicted him as a hot-head based on a 20-year-old incident in which he chased a car on foot after the occupants had egged his car.

Another ad accused him of an election violation that had already been cleared by the Lt. Governor's Office.

Swallow also took some hits, including a mailer sent out by a Democrat-based Super PAC accusing the chief deputy attorney general of being the target of a federal investigation for intervening in a Salt Lake County bid process.

The Reyes campaign also brought to light fines that Swallow incurred from the Federal Election Commission dating back to his 2004 run for the 2nd Congressional District.

The FEC fined Swallow's campaign $8,000 for improperly reporting contributions and several of the contributors were fined for giving excessive amounts.

Both candidates had two debates — one at the Rocky Mountain Conservatives event in Heber and another on a local talk radio show program. Reyes debated Smith in a local television debate after Swallow declined to participate.

Swallow, a former state lawmaker, sought to define his conservative credentials by touting his involvement in the lawsuit against the federal government over the Affordable Health Care mandate — commonly referred to as "Obamacare."

But Reyes used accusations made by former Utah Solicitor General Annina Mitchell that Swallow was overstating his involvement in the multistate lawsuit.

Still, Swallow earned the endorsements of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Mark Shurtleff, the current attorney general who is serving his third term. Reyes, however, picked up the endorsement of former Sen. Bob Bennett and a large group of lawyers in the state.

Reyes, 41, defined his candidacy by asserting how he was a top-level lawyer who had far more experience arguing cases and tried to paint his opponent as a career politician trying to be the state's top lawyer.

The 49-year-old Swallow emerged from the April Republican State Party Convention with about 55 percent of the delegate vote compared to Reyes' 45 percent — forcing the two into a primary showdown.

Swallow raised more than $679,000, according to the Lt. Governor's Office while Reyes managed to pull in more than $408,000 through the June 19 reporting deadline.

It was Reyes' first run for political office. Reyes is general counsel at eTagz — a Provo-based company known for attaching digital media to merchandise.

Swallow tried twice to win a seat in Congress — narrowly losing to U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, in the 2nd Congressional race.

dmontero@sltrib.comTwitter: @davemontero