Little-known U.S. Senate candidate in Utah is a felon, which may disqualify him from race

(Courtesy | Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office) U.S. Senate candidate Torrey Jenkins as he filed for office.

Republican Torrey Jenkins of Orem is one of 19 candidates running for the U.S. Senate in Utah. He also is a convicted felon with a long criminal history stretching back over 20 years, court records show.

That history would appear to disqualify him from the race under Utah law. The office of Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, which oversees elections, said it is looking into the issue after questions were raised by The Tribune.

Jenkins’ most recent felony conviction was for assault in 2011.

Records show that after he served 180 days in jail, he violated terms of his probation three different times. For each, he was ordered to serve more time — and his probation was extended.

Most recently on April 20, 2016, he was ordered to serve another 240 days — and probation was extended another three years.

Utah code 20A-1-101.5(3) requires that a person’s felony conviction be expunged or at least 10 years have passed since the most recent felony conviction before he or she may hold elected office. Also to qualify, the felon must be granted parole, complete probation or successfully complete incarceration.

Jenkins’ last felony conviction was seven years ago, and it appears that he may still be on probation. Jenkins did not respond to several phone calls and an email seeking comment.

Jenkins had a previous felony conviction in 1999, for escaping from official custody in charges initiated by the Utah County jail.

He also has a long list of misdemeanor convictions. Most recently on Jan. 26, 2017, records show Jenkins was convicted of drug misdemeanors and for drinking alcohol in a vehicle.

Also, records show he was charged on Dec. 19 with lewdness, a Class B misdemeanor. On Nov. 30, he was charged with misdemeanors for operating a vehicle with a suspended license or registration, and operating a vehicle without a required interlock device that helps prevent drunken driving.

Through the years, he had at least three DUI convictions, records show. He has numerous convictions for driving on a suspended license. He also has convictions for shoplifting, contempt of court, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, drug charges and violating protective orders.

Utah Law 20A-1-101.3(3) disqualifies misdemeanor convicts from holding elected office only if they were convicted specifically for violating state election law — not any other laws — and allows them to seek office again after five years.

That’s why San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, convicted of a misdemeanor in 2015 for leading a protest ATV ride onto protected public lands, was not disqualified from office, and is allowed to run for the Legislature this year.

Justin Lee, state elections director for Cox, said his office will look into Jenkins and “review state law and how it interacts with qualifications for the U.S. Senate laid out in the Constitution,” and follow up appropriately.

The U.S. Constitution has only a few basic requirements for U.S. senators: they must be 30 years old, have been U.S. citizens for at least nine years, and be residents of the state they seek to represent.

Jenkins is one of many lesser-known candidates in the crowded U.S. Senate race, where the front-runners are former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Democratic Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson. They seek to replace retiring seven term Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.