Jean Hill wants to put some balance into the state government and says the Utah Attorney General's Office is a good place to start.
Hill, a democrat who for nearly a decade has served as an attorney for the State Board of Education, threw her hat in the ring Thursday for the Utah Attorney General post and said she is running to protect the public interest and restore the balance necessary for good government.
"I think the AG's office is the perfect place to have balance because that is what the law is about looking at both sides of an issue and coming up with a rational decision for what you are going to do, and I think when your AG and the majority of your Legislature are the same party, you lose the balance and you aren't able to present both sides of an issue and protect the public interest like you need to," Hill said.
Last summer Hill and colleague Carol Lear provided legal advice to the Board of Education regarding implementation of the controversial voucher law which was contrary to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's directives.
Shurtleff had previously ordered the board to implement the voucher program from an amendment law while the main bill was awaiting a referendum vote.
Hill advised the board that the amendment could not stand on its own and not to implement the voucher program.
In a letter to the board shortly thereafter Shurtleff stripped both attorneys of their "special assistant attorney general status" for fostering adversarial relationships between the board and his office since under the special status they were charged to act on behalf of the Attorney General's Office.
However, the board continued to consult both Hill and Lear and the school board's decision based on Hill's advice was upheld by the Utah Supreme Court last June.
"This was just one example in the problem of the lack of balance what happened last summer just reflects what happens when you have total control in one party."
Hill said she thinks Shurtleff was doing what he thought was best at the time but questioned whether or not the decisions during the voucher issue from both those in the Legislature and Shurtleff were about public policy.
"I think a lot of it was about partisan politics that's been a problem in the state for a long, long time, and now just seemed like the right time to try and solve that long-standing problem of one-party control," Hill said.
But Shurtleff said an opponent claiming a need for more balance is nothing new both of this opponents in the past have argued that.
"I think we can point to plenty of examples when I have been at odds with the Republican Legislature and the Republican governor in the past so I am going to run on my record," Shurtleff said. "I am curious to hear from her what her experience is as far as criminal law, criminal justice and leadership are but other than that I'm going to run on the things that we've accomplished and what I hope to be able to accomplish in four more years."
Andrew McCullough, who has run in the past, will again be running as a Libertarian candidate for the post.
Wayne Holland, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, said Hill has been at the top of their list of AG candidates for almost a year.
Hill has been an attorney for the State Board of Education since 1999, providing legal counsel to the board, school districts, school administrators, teachers, parents and legislators as well as prosecuting educator misconduct cases before the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission.Before joining the USOE, Hill was a high school history teacher at Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake and was an editorial writer and columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune.