Swallow, Shurtleff case may spark — or squelch — election interest

By Lisa Riley Roche, Deseret News

Published: Wed, July 30, 2014, 7:25 p.m. MDT

 The prosecution of former Republican attorneys general John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff is getting plenty of attention that could have an affect on the November elections for better or worse.

The prosecution of former Republican attorneys general John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff is getting plenty of attention that could have an affect on the November elections for better or worse.

(Salt Lake County Jail)

SALT LAKE CITY — The prosecution of former Republican attorneys general John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff is getting plenty of attention that could have an effect on the November elections for better or worse.

"There is an undercurrent of disgust," said advertising executive Tom Love, whose clients include 4th District congressional candidate Doug Owens and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, both Democrats.

"A cynic would say that would turn people off to the process. I think it could incite more people to go to the polls," Love said. "I think it could have a positive impact on voter turnout because I think it creates some interest that might not be there."

But Dave Hansen, campaign manager for Owens' GOP opponent, Mia Love , said it's the candidates running, not the saga surrounding Swallow and Shurtleff, that will sway voter turnout.

That's in part because with a trial not expected to get underway until well after the election, Hansen said the criminal case won't likely be making too many headlines once voters turn their attention to the election this fall.

"As far as having an impact on voters, you know, the housewife in Herriman isn't going to sit there and say, 'I'm not going to vote in this election because of the upcoming trial,'" said Hansen, a former state GOP chairman.

Tom Love said the message for Democratic candidates is that it's time to look past party labels to restore public trust in all elected offices.

"It's not a question of capitalizing. It's a question of focusing on what's right," he said.

And he believes voters will be receptive.

"This is one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country," Tom Love said. "If people aren't motivated by what they've seen, there's nothing I can do."

Alan Crooks, political general consultant for Attorney General Sean Reyes, said the GOP candidate's internal polling suggests voter turnout should be typical for a mid-term election.

Reyes, appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert after Swallow resigned in December amid multiple investigations, lost to Swallow in the 2012 GOP primary. He is running in a special election for the remaining two years of Swallow's term.

An attorney general's race usually doesn't attract much attention, but Crooks said Reyes' polling also found that voters are arming themselves with more information about the candidates.

"It just shows they're watching all politicians more closely," Crooks said. "It does make us feel good that what Sean is doing is working. If they are watching carefully, they're seeing that."

The Democratic candidate for attorney general, Charles Stormont, said voters are unusually focused on the race, at the top of the ticket because of the special election.

"This attorney general's race is unique," said Stormont, an assistant attorney general who took a leave of absence to run. "This year, the first question is, 'Tell me what you're going to do to make sure this doesn't happen again?'"

Chris Karpowitz, co-director of BYU's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, said the attorney general's race will be in the spotlight this election, thanks to Swallow and Shurtleff.

"Typically, that's a race that can get lost in the shuffle," Karpowitz said.

Still, he said, it's hard to know how the Swallow and Shurtleff case will affect voter turnout.

"Levels of trust in government overall are quite low, and to the extent this contributes to a sense that government is, that political figures are corrupt or don't have the broad interest of the public in mind, it doesn't help," Karpowitz said.

State Republican Party Chairman James Evans said voter turnout in GOP-dominated Utah will be driven this year by frustration with a Democrat, President Barack Obama.

"That will be a signficant motivator for Republicans to come out this year, and the enormous regret that Mitt Romney is not president," Evans said. "That's going to overshadow everything."

The executive director of the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, Maryann Martindale, wasn't optimistic that voters would respond to the Swallow and Shurtleff scandal.

"I don't think it will have a significant impact, but if it does have an impact, it will be negative," Martindale said. "In reality, it should be just the opposite. People should be angered by this, and they should come out in droves to make a statement."

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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1. John Charity Spring
Back Home in Davis County, UT,
July 30, 2014

This article highlights an irrefutable fact: the vast majority of voters are simply not informed enough to even be aware of important issues like this. Thus, it is unlikely that the masses will vote in any great ergo or lesser numbers than normal.

Having a greater number of voters is a good thing only if those voters are educated and informed about the issues. A system in which most voters are ignorant lends itself towards the creation of corrupt politicians such as the former attorneys general allegedly were.

Let's put an end to the election of incompetent officials by putting an end to mass uneducated voting. Begin by repealing the 17th Amendment. Then, mirror this effort on the State level.

The battle for America's future cannot be left in the hand of uninformed voters. No reasonable person can deny this fact.

2. JWB
Kaysville, UT,
July 31, 2014

Both these guys wanted election fanfare a couple of years ago. One resigned afterwards and the other regrets any association with the other. Truth is truth and only the facts change. Facts are facts and should not change the truth. Attorneys know how to do both parts in their professions. Some become politicians and should carry their integrity through generations of time, in the history books. Fortunately, other public officials also have responsibilities for our valued system of constitutionally protecting us from errors of man and the designs of men and women.

I believe the other investigations were to obtain facts, even in a bipartisan way to help keep faith in the system. Resigning is an option but may not be the end to find the truth and the real facts.

Guilty by association is what mothers try to teach their children to avoid. Even some kings in the oOld Testament found that out, when God made sure the most righteous person became the King of Israel with Saul, David and Solomon. He warned the people about kings but they wanted a king so they could be like others. To be what God wants us to be is more important.

3. FatherOfFour
July 31, 2014

If you want to end corruption in the AG's office, vote for Charles Stormont. He has a detailed plan for ethics oversight and safeguards to prevent this from happening again.

4. Cincinnatus
Kearns, UT,
July 31, 2014


It highlights no such thing. All it highlights are a bunch of biased political analysts spouting their opinions about how the Shurtleff/Swallow saga MAY affect the turnout in November. And frankly, these are just opinions in a highly speculative article.

So your solution to the low voter information problem is to repeal the 17th amendment? While it may sound good, in the reality of modern politics, it does nothing but remove the ability of people to have a say in their representation.

What's next JCS? Repeal the 19th amendment and take away the vote from women? How about we just go back to white male landowners being the only ones who get to cast a vote?

Low information voters will always exist. Removing the right to elect Senators won't change anything- low information voters will still vote and they will still elect local and state officers, who have a greater daily effect on our lives than do nationally elected leaders.