- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Sean Reyes has been Utah’s attorney general for less than three months, but he’s already facing a challenger for the office - one of his own staff attorneys.

Democrat Charles Stormont, an attorney in the office’s civil division for the past six years, officially announced on Tuesday morning his bid to unseat his boss.

Reyes, a Republican, was appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert in December to run the vacant office until an election this fall. He replaced Republican John Swallow, who resigned after nearly 11 months in office.

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Swallow resigned after he was inundated with investigations and accusations of wrongdoing, including allegations about trading favors with businessmen in trouble with regulators.

He has maintained his innocence, but the allegations surrounding him spawned local and federal investigations and cast a shadow over the office.

Stormont, who handles civil cases related to the Utah Department of Transportation, called himself a public servant who wants to restore public trust in the office.

“What am I going to tell my children 20 years from now when they ask, ‘What did you do when you learned about the problems in your office?’ ” he said. “I want to be able to tell them that I stood up and I gave the people a real choice.”

When asked how he could restore public trust when he was part of the office for six years, Stormont said he served as “a line attorney” responsible for day-to-day legal work rather than being involved with the management of the office.

He said he had an amicable conversation with Reyes several weeks ago when he warned that he would be running against him to become Utah’s top law-enforcement officer.

“It’s certainly a little bit different than what we usually see. But I have no reason to think that it won’t be a great campaign all-around,” Stormont said.

In a campaign statement released Tuesday afternoon, Reyes said he wishes all candidates in the race good luck.

“I will continue to focus my time and energies on the vital business of the state and work diligently to regain the public’s trust in the Attorney General’s Office,” he said. “While secondary to my principal responsibilities, campaigns are an important part of the political and public service process.”

Reyes plans to file his own declaration of candidacy to run again on Wednesday.

When Reyes took over late last year, the office was in the middle of a legal scramble days after a federal judge issued a surprise ruling overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

His first few days in office came as his staff members were filing emergency appeals to halt gay couples from marrying in Utah.

Before Reyes was picked by Herbert last year, he was serving as general counsel for eTAGz, a media and technology company based in Springville.

He ran for attorney general in 2012, but lost to Swallow in an ugly primary election that resulted in Reyes filing a defamation-of-character lawsuit against Swallow and others, claiming they falsely portrayed him in campaign advertisements.

The case was later dismissed.


Follow Michelle Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice.

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