SALT LAKE CITY — Democrat Charles Stormont kicked off his campaign against Attorney General Sean Reyes on Wednesday by declaring that more needs to be done to restore confidence in the office.

Former attorneys general "John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff have left a cloud over the office, and Sean Reyes has done nothing to remove that cloud," he said. "All Mr. Reyes has done is shuffled the cards, but we are still playing with the same deck."

Stormont, an assistant attorney general who handles property acquisition for the Utah Department of Transportation, is taking an unpaid leave of absence to challenge his boss.

If he is elected in November, Stormont said he would drop the state's defense of the voter-approved amendment to Utah's Constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

"It is a tremendous waste of taxpayer resources. It is destroying families and that has to stop. We have to stand up for people's rights. We shouldn't be fighting to take them away," he said on the steps of the Matheson Courthouse.

With more than a dozen supporters behind him, Stormont said he intends to create an independent state ethics office that would include a hotline for Utahns to report unethical behavior.

He said he would remove what he labeled a "gag order" instituted by Reyes, a policy requiring his staff to direct contact from the news media to his communications office or face disciplinary action, including termination.

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"I want to empower those dedicated public servants to speak up," Stormont said, calling it "time for the attorney general's office and its employees to become the watchdogs on (Utah's Capitol Hill) they are supposed to be."

Reyes was appointed as attorney general after Swallow resigned late last year amid investigations into allegations that include influence peddling by a special legislative committee that determined Swallow hung a "for sale" sign on the office.

Swallow and his predecessor, Shurtleff, continue to be the subjects of an investigation by the Salt Lake and Davis county attorneys, as well as the FBI.

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