Sunday, March 08, 2009

AG stands for Aspiring Senator

Two years ago, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff visited my State and Local Government law class to discuss how he handled the Polygamous theocracy in Hildale, Utah and what powers the state and county officials had to reign in rouge city officials who obeyed Warren Jeffs over the law. It was an interesting talk, and I commend Shurtleff for the work he did regarding polygamists, especially when you contrast it with the heavy-handed and disastrous approach of his counterparts in Texas.

Shertleff's shtick is always "aw-chucks" country boy whose charm and false modesty is supposed to grow on you. The prior fall, he was very good at debating the other candidates for the AG position at my law school as well using that approach.

After his lecture to my seminar, there was time for questions, so I asked: "The old saying goes 'A.G. stands for Aspiring Governor'" He then chuckled, I continued, asking him if he had plans for future statewide office like Governor. He replied with some trope about finishing out this term as A.G. which would be his last and denying any ambitions for anything else.

Since he is a politician, and a pretty successful one at that, I didn't expect the truth, but I did want him on the record as pretending he didn't want to go higher than A.G.
Potential challengers from his own party have already started lining up for the 2010 race and none is bigger than Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who huddled with some D.C. fundraisers Wednesday, while in town for a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General.

"I've always wanted to serve in the Senate," Shurtleff told The Salt Lake Tribune .

The attorney general isn't a candidate yet -- at least formally. He wants to run and believes he has the makings of a formidable challenger, but isn't ready to commit out of concern for his family.

"I've still got a 12-year-old, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old. We are not going to move," he said. That means, if elected, he would have to commute back and forth each week. "Is this the right time for my family?"

He has sought advice from Utah Reps. Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz, who commute to D.C. during the week and fly back to their young children on the weekends.

That's right, the same Matheson that he falsely maligned back when it was politically convenient to do so. Yeah, Shurtleff is a real family man who isn't a hack, I get it.
Shurtleff said he has also done some "significant polling" and the results make him only more eager to run.

"He [Bennett]'s vulnerable. He knows it," he said.
A number of Republicans are thinking about challenging Sen. Bennett from the right, and the party's rules are kooky enough that one of them might force Bennett into a primary election. And Shurtleff would be one most capable of tacking back into the mainstream.
Beyond Shurtleff, Mike Lee, who was Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'former general counsel, and former Juab County Attorney David Leavitt, have expressed interest in running for Bennett's seat.

Originally, Shurtleff's political plan was to serve out his term and then take a shot at running for governor. But that changed last fall, when Congress passed the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Bennett was one of the key Senate Republicans negotiating that plan.

"People are pretty upset with that bailout. Now that they know he had a role in it, they are not happy at all," Shurtleff said.

He said he also is unhappy with the way Senate Republicans operated under former President George W. Bush.

"They were just spending us into oblivion," he said.

After Shurtleff floated his name as a potential candidate, Bennett gave him a call and asked him to serve as the co-chairman of his re-election campaign.
Ah, so right-wing "populism" it is. Bennett, with his Appropriations Committee membership, has made it his job to bring home the bacon for Utah, while Hatch gets his celebrity "friends" out of jail.

While one state's bacon is another's pork, most states are want to part with their own Senator Pothole. Alaska didn't part with Ted Stevens until AFTER he had been convicted of seven felonies, and even then it was extremely close. It takes decades for senators to build up seniority on important committees like Approps. That's why Sen. Clinton is now Sec. Clinton, she wanted to be a player in the health care reform legislation but senate lions like Sen. Kennedy (class of 1960) told her hands off.

The point is, I doubt Bennett will lose. If he really was that vulnerable, you would hear talk that Jim Matheson was thinking about running. As it is Jim seems content to stay put, unless something opens up.

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