Utah Attorney General candidates debate for position

SALT LAKE CITY — Seven Utahns want the state’s top law enforcement job, and Wednesday night the candidates vying for the AG’s office answered question during a debate at the Eccles Broadcast Center at the University of Utah.

The candidates are: former Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Wilkens, Salt Lake Lawyer and GOP activist Michelle Mumford, former Republican AG candidate Sean Reyes, Attorney for Fraternal Order of Police Brett Rawson, General and acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet, former Iron County Attorney Scott Burns, and Director of BYU International Center of Law and religious studies Robert Smith.

It was a two-hour debate. Some of the candidates wanted to make clear they are not politicians and only want the job to clean up the mess former Utah Attorney General John Swallow left behind.

“I will not accept any campaign contributions, and I will not be seeking election to the office of attorney general in 2014 or any time for that matter,” Wilkens said.

“My fellow Republicans: My name is Brian Tarbet, and I am no politician,” Tarbet said during his introduction.

Others like Sean Reyes, the former Republican candidate who campaigned for the position in 2012, wants another shot.

“I am still excited, ready, able and capable to lead that office,” he said. “What we need more than anything right now is see change in culture there, we need to restore, as other have said, public trust and confidence in that office.”

From transparency to talk about restoring public trust and where they stand on gay marriage, the candidates were at the debate to convince the 182 Republican Central Committee members that they should be hired for the job.

“Without question it takes guts to stand up and say that something is not right and even if we see a law that’s passed, as an attorney general we take issue with it,” Rawson said.

“I filed a brief with others in our office in support of the Defense of Marriage Act and in support of Proposition 8 in the U.S. Supreme Court. Our office of attorney general did not,” Smith said.

The RCC votes Saturday to determine who the top three candidates are. The names will be given to Gov. Gary Herbert, who ultimately decides on the person to fill the AG spot.

Meantime, Democrats have teamed up with Republican Senator Ann Valentine, Alliance for a Better Utah and several other groups asking for a caretaker and outsider to be appointed. The Democrats have opened an online forum for the public to provide names.

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