Deseret News archives

Former Democratic Utah Attorney General Jan Graham is one of only two women in the newspaper's most powerful people.

She's mystified by her appearance on the list, especially considering that when the survey of 30 insiders was taken late last year it was well known she wasn't seeking re-election as the top law officer in the state.

But Graham, 51, was a high-profile AG — butting heads against the Republican establishment in the Capitol, leading the fight to get billions of dollars in tobacco company settlement funds and fighting against child and and spouse abuse.

Why was she surprised to be so ranked?

"Because I'm a member of the wrong political party. If Utah is not the most Republican state, it certainly is a contender. I'm the recipient of some extraordinary, and perhaps undeserved, good fortune in winning two statewide races in Utah. I always felt that was unexpected," she said.

"I spent a good deal of time when I was first elected — this may surprise some — considerable energy and thought trying to get along with some Republican members of the Legislature. So I really put some effort into individually speaking to each of them (leaders), befriending them, getting to know them, getting them to know me. Perhaps I could disarm them a little, showing I'm a normal person. I'm a mother, I live in a family just like you.

"And I thought it worked. It helped me, too, to understand that they were just normal people and people that I needed to work with. Virtually without exception, I found them wonderful, gentlemen, kind, good family people.

"The problem was when they were acting collectively and, this is very important, behind closed doors — as the Republican leadership of this Legislature does everything behind closed doors. That is where the group instinct took over, the mob instinct."

She was stonewalled on a number of issues, she said. After winning her re-election in 1996, Graham said she gave up trying to work with the Republican leadership and went directly to the people in various ways.

When she paid for radio ads criticizing how the GOP-controlled Legislature was splitting up tobacco funds, one leader called her into his office and screamed she was telling lies. But she persisted and believes her influence made a difference in that and other fights "for what I believed had to be done."