Republican Candidates For Attorney General Spar On Debate Stage
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and his primary challenger Utah County Attorney David Leavitt hurled accusations at each other at an hour-long debate Tuesday.
Leavitt accused Reyes of being too political. Leavitt said Reyes takes his cues from the Republican Attorneys General Association. But Reyes argued that he has sided with Democratic office holders just as often.
“It shows my independence, but also the ignorance of my opponent to, again, keep pointing those things out,” Reyes said. “Pure campaign rhetoric, pure nonsense.”
Leavitt also blasted donations to Reyes’ campaign, particularly in the case of the Kingstons, a polygamous family that owned Washakie Renewable Energy. The family was investigated by the FBI for tax fraud. Reyes received $50,000 from the Kingstons and during the debate said it was a “good faith” mistake, but not an illegal one.
Meanwhile, Reyes critiqued Leavitt for being a one-issue candidate on criminal justice reform. Reyes touted his own reform efforts, as well as his work on issues like opioids and human trafficking. Reyes said the kind of reform Leavitt wants to see, such as fewer plea bargains and more jury trials, is too expensive and unrealistic.
But Leavitt said reform is the defining issue of the justice system.
“In almost seven years as being the attorney general, Sean Reyes has done nothing to reform the criminal justice system,” Leavitt said. “He believes in the ‘lock them up’ mentality that is destroying all of us.”
The two also differed on the role of the attorney general in supervising county and district attorneys. Leavitt said “what happens in Weber County should happen in Washington County,” and that the attorney general should make the criminal justice system more consistent statewide.
Reyes said it’s not appropriate for the state to tell independently elected county attorneys what to do. He called Leavitt an “emperor” and said his suggestion offends county attorneys.
The winner of the June 30 primary will face Democrat Greg Skordas in the general election.
Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Means13