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Charles Stormont wants to eliminate politics from attorney general's office

SALT LAKE CITY — A half-eaten chocolate-covered pretzel stick sits on Charles Stormont's messy desk in his campaign office at Utah Democratic Party headquarters.

Stormont says the treat isn't breakfast. He picked it up at the monthly Shabbat market at the Jewish Community Center where he dropped off his 3-year-old son for preschool that morning.

Seated behind the desk, the 37-year-old Democratic candidate for attorney general undoes a button on his dress shirt, says, "Excuse me" and pokes an insulin pen into his abdomen. He explains that he's had Type 1 diabetes since childhood and needs a shot every time he eats anything with carbohydrates.

But it doesn't limit him.

"It's something that you figure out how to manage. It's part of life and you take care of it. And if you don't take care of it, you don't feel very good," he said, adding everything he needs is in a little blue bag that goes everywhere with him.

He credits his mother, Lana Stormont, who reared three children on her own after his father died of a heart attack at age 35, with teaching him at a young age to give himself shots and check his blood sugar.

Stormont now finds himself getting a heavy dose of politics, something he didn't think he'd get into after a college internship in Washington, D.C., "cured" him of that notion.

Recognizing the irony of a candidate for public office making that statement, he says, "I guess it cured me for several decades, but apparently not permanently."

Partisanship, he said, turned him off. People in Washington were more interested in helping themselves than in solving problems, he said.

But watching scandal tarnish the Utah Attorney General's Office, in which he works as an assistant attorney general, prompted him to challenge Republican Sean Reyes, whom the governor appointed after John Swallow resigned last December.

Stormont's wife of nine years, Valerie Stormont, said she never thought "in a million years" that he would run for political office. But she said he's a great lawyer, liked by clients and is easy to work for.

She should know. She was a legal assistant at the Washington, D.C., law firm where Stormont worked. They got to know each other working on cases together. They have two children, Claire, 6, and Charlie, 3.

"He's quite possibly the most honest man I know," Valerie Stormont said. "I don't ask him how I look because I know he'll tell me."

And in the interest of full disclosure, Stormont is running as a Democrat but he's not a registered Democrat. His voter registration card reads unaffiliated.

When he told a colleague that he was thinking about running for the top job, the co-worker introduced him to Utah Democratic Party officials and Stormont made his pitch. He told them he was fed up with politics in the office and wanted an attorney general who would just practice law.

"Obviously, they didn't mind. They let me run on the Democratic ticket," he said.

Asked about someone he admires, Stormont named a Democrat: President Harry S. Truman. The mild-mannered Stormont doesn't seem to have the demeanor of "Give 'Em Hell Harry." But he said he likes that Truman was bold enough to desegregate the Army and that after his time as president he didn't try to live off his name.

Stormont was born in Houston and went to high school in Blacksburg, Virginia. He graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina with degrees in math and political science before going to the University of Virginia law school.

After graduation he joined a large firm in Washington, D.C., where he worked on complex, multibillion-dollar mergers and patent litigation.

Jack Taurman worked closely with Stormont at Vinson & Elkins. For a young lawyer, Stormont had a maturity and a work ethic that isn't learned in law school, he said. He also had a "good, orderly legal mind."

"He's not ego-driven. He's just a regular guy," said Taurman, a semi-retired partner in the firm. "I hated to see him go."

Stormont and his wife moved to Utah in 2006 to be closer to her family. He worked for a private firm for two years and then took a job in the attorney general's office, where he works on eminent domain issues for the Utah Department of Transportation. State law required him to take unpaid leave of absence while he runs for office.

He also still manages his family's 6,000-acre farm and ranch in central Texas.

Before loading up the truck to Utah, he learned from an aunt that he has a tie to the state that he didn't know about: His grandfather was born in the tiny Duchesne County town of Myton.

His Presbyterian minister great-grandfather founded a church in Myton in 1907 that still stands today. His grandfather came along while Stormont's great-grandparents were doing missionary work in the Uintah Basin.

Stormont represents the attorney general's office on the 3rd District Court's pro bono committee, which tries to get firms and lawyers to provide legal services for people who can't afford it. Most of the cases involve debt collection.

Rick Davis, an attorney at Callister Nebeker & McCullough who works on the committee, said Stormont believes everyone has a right to legal counsel and has no patience with people who try to take advantage of others.

Davis said the endeavor has helped hundreds of people reach settlements that get them out from under onerous litigation and save the courts money.

"Charles has to take most of the credit for that," he said.

John Bogart, a lawyer who worked with Stormont when he moved to Utah, said Stormont was good at managing teams and resolving conflicts among attorneys on complicated antitrust cases.

Though he was good at the job that demanded long hours, Stormont left so he could spend more time with his family, Bogart said.

Valerie Stormont said she and Charles are homebodies who enjoy spending time with their children. They enjoy the outdoor activities like hiking and skiing. She said they plan to spend the rest of their lives in Utah.

And one way or another, Stormont will be back in the attorney general's office after the election, either in the marbled halls of the state Capitol as the boss or back at a window office he recently managed to snag at the Heber M. Wells Building.

Charles Stormont, Democrat

Defending state laws: The idea that the attorney general can't pick and choose which laws to defend shows a "profound misunderstanding" of the job, Stormont said. He would protect every Utahn's rights — from the right to marry who you love to the right to bear arms — regardless of whether its popular with the Legislature or the governor.

Restoring public trust: Stormont would create a state ethics office to train government officials on their legal obligations to the public. The office would also investigate and, if necessary, prosecute violations of laws at every level of government.

Campaign finance: Stormont said he won't take money from payday lenders, multilevel marketers, business opportunity firms, alarm system companies or cable companies because they get thousands of consumer complaints. The attorney general's office needs to be able to investigate those complaints objectively, he said.

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