Utah AG a no-show at first debate

Posted at 4:51 PM, Aug 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-26 23:18:48-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes did not appear at the first debate for the attorney general's race, leaving his Democratic challenger to put on a one-man show.

Reyes and Charles Stormont were scheduled to debate before the Rotary Club of Salt Lake City on Tuesday. The Rotarians said it was the first time in their history that a candidate failed to show up for a debate.

"I've seen most of those that want to be the governor, senators and everybody else come," said Floyd Hatch, the president-elect of the Rotary Club. "We have a little different situation today."

Reyes' campaign told FOX 13 it was a scheduling conflict. In a videotaped message, Reyes apologized for his absence.

"Let me first say that I am extremely sorry that I cannot be with you today at this luncheon," Reyes said on the tape. "I'm in another state for a couple of days and was not able to cancel the different events and policy meetings that we have."

Reyes' Facebook page showed him in California, where he was attending policy meetings as well as visiting family and doing a fundraiser. In keeping with their debate format, the Rotary Club cut Reyes' videotaped message off after four minutes -- leaving Stormont alone to take questions.

Stormont deflected a question on immigration, but told the crowd that if elected he would drop Utah's appeal of the same-sex marriage rulings. He also vowed to create an independent ethics office to investigate complaints -- referring to the scandals surrounding former Utah attorneys general John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff.

"I've told everybody that'll listen that I think the AG's Office should be a non-partisan office, much like the school board and other offices around the state," Stormont told FOX 13.

The two candidates are scheduled for at least one more debate. Reyes and Stormont have agreed to appear together at an event sponsored by the Utah Debate Commission (FOX 13 is a partner in the event) that will be televised on Oct. 1.