SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Some government reform groups are calling on the governor to only appoint a temporary replacement for former Attorney General John Swallow. Swallow resigned last month after accusations of bribery and extortion.
The Alliance for a Better UTAH and Utahns for Ethical Government joined forces Tuesday to deliver a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert. It asks him to appoint an interim attorney general who won't run for election in November.
“We believe that the ideal candidate is someone who is ethically, morally and legally beyond reproach,” said Maryann Martindale. “Someone who is not seen as a partisan insider who hopes to hold the office for the long term.”
After one of the candidates withdrew this week, eight are vying to be Utah's next top cop.
Of the candidates, the state central committee of the Utah Republican party will recommend three to the governor who gets the final say.
ABC4 Utah's Kim Johnson asked the party chairman if election ambitions will factor into the selection.
“I think everything will be considered with respect to the office and that's what we're supposed to do as a central committee,” said James Evans, chairman of the state GOP party. “We'll look at all reasonable options and make a decision, so nothing is off the table.”
But political aspirations should be central, according to government reformers who believe the recent Swallow scandal is a perfect opportunity to clean up the attorney general's office and worry campaigning and fundraising for an election would get in the way of that.
“To run for that office is a full-time undertaking and to be out raising funds invites the same kind of partisan fundraising that has has been such a problem for that office in the past,” said David Irvine, Utahns for Ethical Government.
The groups say if none of the three candidates selected this weekend agree to the caretaker role, the governor should look outside of the pool.
“We believe there is some discretion on the governor part to ultimately determine who that appointee is,” said Martindale.
Gov. Herbert is not commenting on how much he'll factor political ambitions into his decision. So far only two of the candidates, Michael Wilkins and Brian Tarbet, who is currently overseeing the office, have said they will not run for election.
It'll likely be a topic of discussion during a debate between all of candidates scheduled for Wednesday evening.