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(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, left, and Republican attorney general nominee John Swallow share a laugh at a campaign event.
Money dominates race for Utah attorney general

Some say Republican Swallow’s lopsided, record haul of $1.2M may lead to conflict of interest.

First Published Oct 12 2012 12:21 pm • Last Updated Nov 03 2012 11:31 pm

Dee Smith is haunted by the memory of Jared Francom.

The attorney for Weber County has been preparing the case against Francom’s accused killer, Mattehw David Stewart, ever since a cold, fateful January day.

At a glance

Dee Smith

Party » Democrat

Age » 44

Family » Married 19 years. Four children

Occupation » Weber County’s attorney

Education » Bachelor’s degree in history, Weber State University; law degree, University of Utah

John Swallow

Party » Republican

Age » 49

Family » Married 27 years. Five children

Occupation » Chief deputy attorney general

Education » Bachelor’s in psychology, law degree, Brigham Young University

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"I knew Officer Francom," Smith said. "I know the families of the other officers that were wounded. I want to see it [the case] through."

Francom was part of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force that served a high-risk warrant Jan. 4, resulting in the firefight that killed the officer and wounded five others.

Smith said Francom would regularly "call me in the middle of the night" about procedures to assist in making a case.

"I’d been through several jury trials that I’d prosecuted his cases," Smith said. "He was a true professional."

But 10 months after the shooting, there is no chance that — if Smith were to win in his bid to become Utah’s next attorney general — he’d be able to try the capital murder case.

It’s the main reason it took three tries — including calls by U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson and visits by Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis — to persuade him to run against Republican John Swallow, the chief deputy attorney general.

"I really wanted to see it through," Smith said, sitting at an empty desk inside his spartan campaign office. "But we have really good prosecutors working the case."

story continues below
story continues below

New attorney general » For the first time in 12 years, the election for attorney general will not have the name Mark Shurtleff on the ballot.

Shurtleff set a tone for the office that many considered high-profile advocacy for issues. He became a national figure on immigration, helping forge The Utah Compact and calling out fellow Republicans for taking too hard of a line on immigration reform.

He has appeared on immigration-related panels and said recently at a forum in Salt Lake City that Republicans were in danger of losing the Latino vote forever by continually espousing tough, enforcement-only rhetoric.

Swallow said the public won’t see him leading out on that hot-button issue, however.

"I view Latino support for the Republican Party as being important demographically and politically and I think that’s what Mark is trying to say," Swallow said. "Mark clearly views his role on immigration in that area as one of his big priorities. I am probably going to use more of my time and energy to fight on the public-lands issues and child-protection issues."

But public lands, according to a survey released this week by the Utah Foundation, ranks as the 14th most important issue to voters. Immigration was 10th. Jobs and the economy ranked first.

Swallow said he "won’t run my office by polls," adding that the federal lands issue in Utah isn’t fully understood by the public.

"I don’t know the public has been educated to see the tie between jobs and the economy and public-lands access," Swallow said. "I don’t know if they’ve seen the tie between energy dependency and energy independence for the country and access to public lands."

Smith, however, sees it as a waste of taxpayer money trying to defend "message lawsuits" that he believes have no chance in getting the federal government to turn over a portion of the land it controls in Utah.

Smith said his experience as the top prosecutor in Weber County makes him qualified to be the top prosecutor in the state.

"I’ve tried over 50 jury trials, including death-penalty cases," he said. "My experience is in law enforcement and prosecution, which is what you need to be as the state’s top prosecutor."

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