Election preview: Less than half of Utah's state executive primary races are contested

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March 16, 2012

By Ballotpedia's State Executive Project team: Greg Janetka, Maresa Strano

SALT LAKE CITY, UT: Five state executive seats are up for election in Utah this year: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and state auditor. Primary elections will be held on June 26, 2012, followed by a November 6, 2012 general election.

In 4 of the 5 races, the incumbent is seeking re-election - Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has decided to not seek a fourth term in office. Two incumbents, Gov. Gary Herbert and Auditor Auston Johnson, face primary challengers.

In all, six of the ten primary races are uncontested. All of the Democratic contests as well as the Republican race for treasurer have only one declared candidate. A total of six third party candidates have filed for offices - three Libertarians and three Constitution Party candidates - with at least one in each of the races.

See also: Utah gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2012

In Utah, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected on a single ticket. Incumbent Republicans Gary Herbert and Greg Bell are running for re-election and have drawn five challengers for the partisan primary on June 26, 2012, none of whom filed with a running mate: David Kirkham, Morgan Philpot, Lane Ronnow, William Skokos and Kenneth Sumsion.

Herbert was first elected lieutenant governor in 2004 on a ticket with Jon Huntsman. The pair was re-elected in 2008, and Herbert assumed the governorship on August 11, 2009 when Huntsman left office to take a position as U.S. Ambassador to China. He and Lt. Gov Gregory Bell won a special election in 2010 and are running for re-election to a full four year term this year.

Two candidates, Democrat Peter Cooke and Libertarian Ken Larsen were the only members of their party to file for office, while Constitution Party hopefuls Kirk Pearson (Utah) and Brandon Nay are vying for their party's nomination.

See also: Utah attorney general election, 2012
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff will not seek a fourth term in office in 2012.

Current Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) has announced he will not seek re-election to a fourth term, and four hopeful replacements filed their candidacy with the Lt. Governor. The pool of candidates includes two Republicans, one Democrat, and one Libertarian, each a member of Utah's legal pantheon in his own right.

Republican Sean D. Reyes, Utah's "Young Lawyer of the Year,"[1] is currently general counsel at the local media and technology company eTAGZ. He is a popular figure in local, state, and national politics - particularly within the Republican Party - for his service as a delegate, appointed member of the State Central Committee, and advisor on Latino issues. As an advocate of community outreach programs, Reyes has founded multiple non-profit organizations dedicated to education, business and anti-fraud awareness.[2] If elected, Reyes, who has mentioned repealing Obamacare as his main priority for the office, would become Utah’s first statewide-elected official from a minority community.[1]

Former state legislator John Swallow (R) has served as Utah's chief deputy attorney general since his appointment by Shurtleff in 2009. He oversees the civil division, spearheading the state's legal land battles against the federal government, and most prominently, the current battle to strike down Obamacare. In a Feb 13 statement, Swallow said "I have seen the federal government's intrusion into our lives at almost every level and am committed to putting an end to it."[3]

Democrat Dee W. Smith, a Weber County attorney, believes his current work prosecuting death penalty cases and other high-profile crimes qualifies him for the state's top legal office. "I’ll be focusing on being a strong voice for law enforcement," he said of his plans.[4] Smith's uncontested primary status gives him temporary campaign relief, and lends credence to his promise to not let the campaign impinge on his present caseload. Of his priorities for the AG's office, he cites combating the three chief “threats our families face: illegal drugs, identity fraud, gangs and Internet crimes against children."[4]

The lone Libertarian candidate in the race, W. Andrew McCullough, is a practicing attorney in Midvale, specializing in 1st and 4th amendment law. His campaign focuses on true-to-form Libertarian values such as reduced regulation in the markets and decriminalization of marijuana. He was spurred to run by news of Democratic opponent Smith's candidacy, feeling it was incumbent upon him to represent the Libertarian party on one of its most important issues. “We’re against the death penalty, and he’s a death penalty guy, so I had to file” McCullough said. This year's race is round three for McCullough, whose past unsuccessful bids left him undeterred. “Who’s counting?” he told the Standard-Examiner after filing this week.[4]

Treasurer Richard Ellis
See also: Utah down ballot state executive elections, 2012

All three candidates for Utah Treasurer will get a pass in the primaries as no two candidates filed for the same party. Republican incumbent Richard Ellis was first elected in 2008 and is seeking his second term in office. He will face challenges from Democrat Christopher Stout and Libertarian Vincent Marcus.

Treasurer Auston Johnson
See also: Utah down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Veteran incumbent Auston Johnson is seeking re-election to the post he has held since 1995. He will have to face current state Rep. John Dougall in the Republican primary. Whoever comes out on top in that contest will be in a three-way fight with Democrat Mark Sage and Constitution Party candidate Richard Proctor.

See also


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