Historically, Utah's governors and attorneys general have had somewhat less than amicable relations, particularly when they happened to belong to different political parties.

At times, they have mired themselves in squabbles that seemed to hurt the state's position, as happened recently when Democratic Attorney General Jan Graham fired Mary Anne Wood as the attorney representing the state in an abortion lawsuit, only to have Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt rehire her.Such public battles can be embarrassing and uncomfortable for some.

But politics never was meant to be easy or comfortable. The state would do a great disservice to its residents by pushing a current proposal to make the office of attorney general an appointed one.

The Legislature's Constitutional Revision Commission is considering whether to sap some of the attorney general's power, either by making it an appointed office or by allowing other, lesser changes - such as giving the governor power to choose his own attorneys to represent department heads. Changes such as these would require voter-approved constitutional revisions, altering a system that has worked well for a century.

Instead, commission members should leave things as they are.

Public arguments, such as the one over Wood or the battle 10 years ago over whether to pursue defense of the Cable Television Decency Act, may not make many people happy, but they ultimately are good for democracy. Such public discourse makes office holders more accountable to the voters who render final judgment over political actions. An elected attorney general also is an important internal watchdog over the deeds of the executive branch.

By contrast, an appointed attorney general would have no watchdog authority. Instead, he or she would serve at the whim of the governor - a political appointment more accountable to the chief executive than to the people. Even allowing the governor to choose only department-head representatives would seriously compromise the attorney general's ability to independently deal with controversial subjects.

Accountability is a vital ingredient in any successful democracy, and the public benefits more from direct, rather than indirect, accountability. Utahns are best served by being able to choose their own attorney general.