SALT LAKE CITY — Chief deputy Utah attorney general John Swallow wants his boss' job.
But he won't manage the office like Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has for nearly 12 years.
"My goal as attorney general will be to run this office as a law firm based on my experience as a litigation partner in my (private) firm and to not perhaps be quite as involved in driving the policy as my predecessor," Swallow said. "That is not a criticism of him. That is simply a style issue for me."
Swallow, a Republican, entered the race for attorney general Wednesday. Shurtleff, also a Republican, is not seeking re-election after three terms in office.
Shurtleff has been a vocal proponent of illegal immigration laws, such as in-state tuition for undocumented students and Utah's guest worker program, that many conservatives view with disdain. In introducing Swallow at his campaign kickoff, Shurtleff noted their differences on immigration issues.
"If I could just get him to come my way a little on immigration, he'd be perfect," Shurtleff said.
Shurtleff said he'd keep the job forever if he could, but there comes a time to move on. "I don't want just anybody coming in, frankly, and taking the lead in this office," he said.
He described Swallow as seasoned. "He knows this job," he said. "He knows this office."
Swallow, 49, has served as Shurtleff's chief deputy since 2009, sometimes having to take the reins when Shurtleff suffered through cancer. He spearheads Utah's legal battles with the federal government over public lands and natural resources. He also oversees the state's effort to strike down the government's controversial health care law requiring Americans to buy health insurance.
"We are poised to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, and God willing, we will prevail," Swallow said.
Swallow starting raising money for the campaign last fall, and to date has already raked in about $325,000. Another Republican in the race, Cottonwood Heights lawyer Sean Reyes, has raised about $464,000, mostly in in-kind donations for office space, supplies and staff from a law firm and businesses he has worked for.
Swallow also served six years in the Utah Legislature and ran two failed campaigns for Congress in 2002 and 2004, losing to Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson both times.
Looking back, Swallow said he's glad that he didn't win those elections.
"I really feel I at this point in my life I could make more of an impact in this state than I could make in Congress," he said.
Swallow said as attorney general he would work to keep the federal government in check. He said he would fight against any attempts by Washington to hamper personal rights and freedom.1 comment on this story
"I have seen the federal government's intrusion into our lives at almost every level and am committed to putting an end to it," he said.
GOP Sen. Mike Lee, who also attended Wednesday's event, called Swallow a bona fide conservative who will stand up for constitutional principles.