Incumbent Sean Reyes takes first place in Utah Attorney General race
Outgoing Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes emerged Tuesday night with a strong lead in early returns over Utah County Attorney David Leavitt in their hard-hitting Republican primary.
Reyes got 54% of the vote against 46% for Leavitt, according to unofficial partial returns.
Officials expect it may take days or weeks before a clear winner emerges due to delays in the normal processing of mail-in votes due to COVID-19. It could take days for ballots cast as late as election day to arrive in the mail, and they will be quarantined for 24 hours before being counted as a precaution.
A final survey will take place in three weeks.
Reyes said he was happy with the early results and “we hope to increase our lead over the next few days.”
He added, “It is an honor as Attorney General to watch and defend Utah. I look forward to building on my momentum to win re-election in November so that I can continue to serve and protect all Utahns. “
For his part, Leavitt said his campaign “was enthusiastic about the momentum and support that had built up until election day.”
“As we continue to watch the results,” he added, “we know that our message of reforming the Utah criminal justice system has resonated with voters and that the discussion and awareness is growing. will develop as we work to make the criminal justice system work for our state. We look forward to the final result. “
Interestingly, Reyes won Salt Lake County by a narrow 51% to 49% margin, while in Utah County, home of Leavitt, the outgoing Attorney General led by 54.5% to 45.5%.
Both candidates have hit each other hard throughout their campaign.
Leavitt – who fought and recovered from COVID-19 during the race – repeatedly reiterated that Reyes kept a ‘for sale’ sign on the attorney general’s office appealing to large donors, failed to properly monitor controversial non-bidding contracts, and ignored problems with the ‘Utah to gain recognition in international raids against human trafficking.
Reyes countered that Leavitt is unconditional, proposes unrealistic and overpriced judicial reforms, and has spent much of the past decade in Ukraine and Moldova advising their governments while Reyes worked in Utah.
When their campaign financial disclosures were filed last week, Leavitt again said they revealed Reyes was selling his office – while the incumbent said he was offering evidence Leavitt was trying to buy it with money. personal money.
Forms show Reyes’ campaign raised $ 1.4 million during his four-year tenure. But only $ 400,000 was spent in this election year.
“The reason I say the attorney general’s office is for sale is because people give it huge amounts of money,” Leavitt said. “He spends very little of it on campaign-related events. And, at the end of the day, he spent it on himself or for the benefit of his friends.
Meanwhile, forms showed Leavitt had provided his campaign with $ 350,000 from his own wallet, and members of his extended family donated an additional $ 39,000 – including $ 5,000 from his brother, the former governor of the ‘Utah, Mike Leavitt.
Alan Crooks, Reyes’ campaign manager, said Leavitt’s self-funding shows him “to be a wealthy, elitist, and skillful hypocrite. In 2008, he spent over $ 500,000 in just five weeks trying to buy his place in an elected office. [Congress]. He is on track to spend even more in this race. He failed then, and he will fail again.
The Republican Association of Attorneys General, which spent nearly $ 300,000 campaigning independently on Reyes’ behalf, also gave him $ 125,000 directly. Leavitt said the money bought Reyes’ support for RAGA’s partisan efforts, such as the release of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Leavitt also complained that RAGA accepts money from many groups who do not disclose their own donors, allowing Reyes contributors to remain anonymous.
“It’s nothing different from a money laundering organization,” Leavitt said.
He added: “You wonder why an association of Republican attorneys general would put so much money into a Republican primary. The reason is that Sean Reyes is bought and paid for by RAGA, and they know I won’t be.
Some questionable donations Reyes accepted also fueled Leavitt’s attacks. Among the controversial contributions Reyes took was $ 51,000 from directors of Washakie Renewable Resources – most of whom have ties to the Kingston polygamous group. Five have pleaded or have been convicted of federal charges in a fraud scheme involving $ 1.1 billion from a government biofuels program.
In 2016, Crooks said the campaign would make the donation questionable money on deposit pending the outcome of the Washakie investigation. The countryside then refused to return the money, saying it had been spent.
Other controversial donations accepted by Reyes include $ 5,000 from Bristlecone Holdings, which has been criticized in the news media. for a possibly fraudulent loan transaction.
He also took $ 5,000 from the Habematolel Pomo tribe of Upper Lake California, who had been sued by federal regulators for its payday lending operations, although the lawsuit was subsequently withdrawn.
In the three years of non-election, according to the Salt Lake Tribune analysis, Reyes also accepted $ 66,000 from multi-level marketing companies; $ 32,500 from high interest lenders who offer payday or title loans; $ 26,000 from timeshare companies; $ 18,000 from tobacco or electronic cigarette manufacturers; and $ 5,000 from a casino.
Meanwhile, Reyes attacked Leavitt’s reform proposals to reduce plea bargaining and have more jury trials – what Leavitt called the most important issue in the race.
“Certainly, criminal justice reform is an important issue, but it is not the most important issue,” Reyes said during a debate. “And anyone who tells you that is not qualified to be an attorney general.” He also warned that Leavitt’s proposals would be too costly and shut down the system.
Reyes has served as Attorney General since 2013. Leavitt was the Utah County Attorney since last year and was previously the Juab County Lawyer. The winner will face Democratic candidate Greg Skordas in the general election.