GOP Attorney General Sean Reyes prevails as Democratic underdog concedes

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Attorney General Sean Reyes.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes coasted to another term Tuesday night, easily outpacing Democratic challenger Greg Skordas.

Unofficial ballot returns showed the Republican incumbent capturing 60.5% of the tally, while Skordas snagged 34.6% in the statewide chase.

The results catapulted Reyes, who was first appointed to the office in late 2013, to a second full term after a bruising election cycle that forced him into a primary and often put him on defense.

Reyes did not make himself available for interviews Tuesday night but said in a statement that he wanted to thank Utah voters for participating in the election “in record numbers" through by-mail and in-person balloting.

“Regardless of party or ideology, our state and nation are stronger when more of us educate ourselves on candidates and issues and participate in elections," he said. "It is exciting to see. No matter the outcome, hopefully we can remember those things that unite us as Utahns and Americans. And when all the ballots are counted, I look forward to serving four more years as attorney general, protecting Utah and all who live in this great state.”

Skordas, who said he was home with his wife watching the results, conceded the race to Reyes. And while he said he wasn’t surprised to face a loss, he was pleased to see that a Democrat “could pull these kind of numbers” in Utah.

“I mean, we knew it was going to be a dogfight," he said, “and we knew we were huge underdogs.”

The candidate previously ran for attorney general in 2004 and lost to incumbent Mark Shurtleff. A Democrat hasn’t held the seat since former Attorney General Jan Graham left office in 2001.

(Scott G Winterton | Deseret News/pool) Defense Attorney Greg Skordas gestures toward Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes as he answers a question during a debate in the KSL studios in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.

Skordas slammed Reyes throughout the contest on a number of fronts — from questioning his campaign contributions from potential investigation targets to condemning his effort to join with other Republican attorneys general to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and criticizing his support for a controversial state contract with the surveillance company Banjo.

The incumbent GOP attorney general, in turn, accused his Democratic rival of lying about Reyes' record to get elected and of “fearmongering” over health care. He also criticized Skordas' record as an attorney.

While Reyes enjoyed the name recognition that comes with being an incumbent and was able to point to his track record on issues like human trafficking to make his case for reelection, he also enjoyed a huge financial advantage over Skordas. The attorney general raised more than $635,000 this year, campaign finance disclosures show, while his Democratic opponent brought in around $284,000 in donations.

Concerns about campaign cash were part of what Skordas said brought him into the race, including his frustration over Reyes' acceptance of donations from a polygamist-owned company whose principals were convicted of fraud.

Skordas has repeatedly accused Reyes of following in the footsteps of his two scandal-plagued GOP predecessors, Shurtleff and John Swallow, in putting the attorney general’s office up “for sale” to the highest bidder.