By Rosemary Pollock
Shurtleff's First 100 Days Show Independence, Surprise
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Ever the political Boy Scout, Utah Attorney
General Mark Shurtleff, is always ready to do "the right thing." The
state's first Republican attorney general in 12 years was supposed to
be the missing link in the GOP's unbroken supremacy over Utah
politics. The "good man caught off guard" describes Shurtleff's first
100 days in office.
Unlike his crusading Democratic predecessor, Attorney General Jan
Graham, Shurtleff has challenged pressure to be the unquestioning
partisan soldier. During an initial 45-days with the Utah
Legislature, Shurtleff publicly questioned the constitutionality of a
key GOP-backed bill that attempted to muzzle the heavily Democratic
public employees' unions.
"There were certain people angry enough at me for taking a position
on this that they were going to withdraw some funding from my
office," Shurleff explained. "They didn't. We were able to talk them
out of it."
Shurtleff, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, doesn't spend his time calculating public opinion and party
obligations. He acts on his convictions, regardless of the price.
"When I came up here I take a $15,000 cut in pay, I get threats...I
speak to a group in Spanish, I get the [racist] National Alliance
saying they're going to bring a lawsuit," he says. "The Democrats
come out and say I'm not doing enough that needs to be done. I'm in
debt. My wife has to work more and all I get is crap. I haven't had
that much fun. I think it gets better. I think I can make a
difference. I really do."
The last three months have seen Shurtleff involved in several
controversial decisions. Shurtleff has been repeatedly accused of
cutting deals with companies who have made substantial contributions
to his campaign. One included cutting a deal to give Alliant
Techsystems a $5 million tax break, granting a request for a zoning
change for a company seeking to place billboards in front of the
Great Salt Lake and handing outgoing Commissioner Mary Callaghan a
$279,500 severance payout.
Despite the awkward first steps, Republican leaders are pleased with
Shurtleff. "Clearly Mark has shown .... when he disagrees he will
state his opinion," said Utah Republican Party executive director
Scott Simpson. "He's also teachable."
Shurleff argues that big corporate donors give him money because they
like his free-enterprise philosophy, nothing more. Besides, "My wife
says to do the right thing," he adds.
GOP's Shurtleff Shows An Independent Streak
Salt Lake Tribune 15Apr01 T2
By Greg Burton and Dan Harrie: Salt Lake Tribune