SALT LAKE CITY – Recent polling seems to hint that the office of Utah Attorney General may be up for grabs in the November general election.
A statewide survey of registered voters by the Hinckley Institute of Politics for the Deseret News confirmed that Democratic candidate Greg Skordas was trailing incumbent Attorney General Sean Reyes, but not by much. The polling also revealed that the percentage of undecided voters in that contest was huge.
The late July survey by pollster Scott Rasmussen found that 38 percent of registered voters favored Reyes’ candidacy, compared to 26 percent for Skordas. But 32 percent of the respondents to that poll said they were undecided.
The Skordas campaign has labeled those results “encouraging,” noting that it’s very unusual for an incumbent Republican to poll below 50 percent following a victory in the GOP primary.
But Reyes’ win in the primary was relatively narrow and his reputation was hurt by repeated charges by GOP challenger David Leavitt that the incumbent attorney general had accepted dubious campaign contributions.
Even better news for the Skordas campaign is the fact that the recent polling indicates that Reyes’ support is oddly soft within his own party.
Of the Republicans responding to the Rasmussen poll, only 56 percent favored Reyes in the attorney general race, with another 22 percent undecided.
Skordas calls those findings “an opening,” particularly for a challenger who isn’t a typical Democratic candidate for attorney general.
While Skordas began his legal career in the Salt Lake public defenders office, he later moved to the staff of the county attorney where he specialized in the prosecution of gang members, sexual predators and child abusers. While in private practice, Skordas was one of three attorneys who helped to introduce the highly successful Drug Court concept in Utah. He also has a strong relationship with Utah’s law enforcement community, having taught at state police academies and represented more than 150 police officers and deputies in use-of-force inquiries.
While Leavitt focused on reform of Utah’s entire criminal justice system during the GOP primary, Skordas is more concerned about cleaning up the attorney general’s office itself.
“For 20 years and through the past three administrations,” he says, “Utah attorneys general have engaged in a practice of taking political contributions from individuals and entities with questionable histories … It is well-known that one way to get the AG’s office to ‘look the other way’ is to make a political contribution …
“I know when a check comes with the expectation of a favor,” Skordas argues. “For the past two decades, the AG’s office has been open for business. It is time for the era of ‘pay to play’ to end.”
The statewide polling by the Hinckley Institute surveyed 1,000 registered voters between July 27 and Aug. 1. That polling had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.