Rolly: Candidates with, shall we say, interesting pasts want to be Utah’s senator of the future

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Paul Rolly.

With the announced retirement of seven-term Sen. Orrin Hatch creating an open seat in Utah’s Senate race this year and a good bet that a Republican will win that post, it’s no surprise that a dozen or so GOP hopefuls have filed to run.

All sorts of characters could be on the ballot — from those with a legitimate chance to those who are unknowns and those with colorful pasts.

Front-runner Mitt Romney alone provides political diversity to the field. Based on his past political stands, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee might be a moderate on Monday, a conservative on Tuesday and a Libertarian on Wednesday.

One GOP candidate who stands out because of his checkered past is Orem resident Torrey Jenkins, a convicted felon with a long rap sheet.

The Salt Lake Tribune has reported that Jenkins’ most recent felony conviction was for assault in 2011. He served 180 days in jail, then violated terms of probation and was ordered to serve more time on three occasions. Most recently, on April 20, 2016, he was ordered to serve another 240 days and his probation was extended another three years. Jenkins had a previous felony conviction in 1999 for escaping from official custody in charges initiated by the Utah County jail.

So his candidacy is one that attracts special attention. Here’s another:

GOP candidate Loy Arlan Brunson, who has run for the Senate before, settled a long-standing lawsuit just last summer that alleged he defrauded an elderly woman out of tens of thousands of dollars by gaining her trust after her husband of 41 years died.

The suit, filed in 2013, alleged that Brunson borrowed $75,000 from Barbara Steiner of Wilsonville, Ore., then failed to pay her back under the original terms of the agreement.

According to a trust deed filed in May 2010, Brunson was to pay back Steiner in installments of $625 a month until the debt was satisfied, but, the lawsuit stated, he failed to do so.

In November 2010, Steiner signed an affidavit forgiving Brunson of the debt, calling him her “very good friend.” But the 2013 lawsuit alleged she was manipulated into signing that affidavit.

After the original loan, instead of making the agreed-upon payments, Brunson persuaded Steiner to make a series of mortgage payments for him from September 2011 to October 2012, totaling $10,665, according to the lawsuit.

She also agreed to put her name on a $220,000 mortgage for a home in Utah County that Brunson lives in, making her liable for the debt.

The suit was settled in July 2017, with Brunson paying off the $75,000 debt and removing Steiner’s name from the mortgage.

Brunson, in an email, denied committing any fraud. He said he attempted to pay back Steiner several times, but she would not accept the payments. He asserts she was manipulated by her family to make frivolous, inaccurate claims against him.

He said he finally agreed to pay back the original $75,000 loan.

Another candidate, Jeremy Friedbaum, a harp maker and restorer of old pianos, has run for office before. The Provo resident made news in 1998 by getting enough delegate votes in the GOP convention to force Republican incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon into a primary. Friedbaum told the delegates at the time that God had asked him to run for Congress.

Cannon subsequently defeated Friedbaum in the primary.

And, of course, Abe Lincoln is in the race.

His full name is Abe Lincoln Brian Jenkins of Orem and, as you might have surmised, he is an Abe Lincoln impersonator.

His email address is Abe@AbeLincolnforUtah.com.

There also is a guy named Orin Hatch (not Orrin Hatch) who is not in the Republican field but is gathering signatures to get on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate.