By Jared Bray, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
Oct. 3, 2014
PROVO, Utah – The office of Utah Attorney General will be up for grabs next month.
In hopes of keeping the position, the state’s current Attorney General, Filipino-American Sean Reyes, went toe to toe with his Democratic challenger, Charles Stormont, during a debate Wednesday night at Brigham Young University.
During the discussion, the candidates agreed that the biggest challenge for the office is restoring public trust.
“We need to put structures in place, the way that the corporate world does, to make sure that abuses of power don’t take place,” Stormont said.
Utah’s two previous attorneys general, John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff, are accused of campaign bribery and misconduct.
“There’s a new sign since I’ve been there, and it says, ‘Beware of the dog.’ One reason is because I’ve been working like one, 80-hour weeks, and the second is, I’m a bulldog when it comes to protecting the integrity of my office,” Reyes said.
What the two don’t see eye to eye on, however, is how to accomplish that. They also disagree on whether it’s the attorney general’s role to defend Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Reyes, a Republican who the governor appointed to the job last December, said he has a duty to uphold the law and seek the Supreme Court’s opinion on the issue.
“But until that opinion comes, I can’t just substitute my opinion, even if I think something might be unconstitutional, because at that point, I’m just guessing,” he said.
Stormont, on the other hand, said he would not waste taxpayer money on a case that the state has no chance of winning.
“There are other areas where we are really under serving the state,” he said. “Given those crises and given that the answer’s already going to be given, I have to question the allocation of resources on the same-sex marriage battle in Utah.”
With the Nov. 4 election on the horizon, Stormont will lean on his experience as a lawyer in the attorney general’s office to win the vote, while Reyes hopes that what he’s accomplished as the state’s fill-in attorney general will persuade voters to allow him to retain his title.