If you missed the recent Utah Republican Party convention, count yourself lucky. It was 15 hours of grueling, mean, misogynist, partisan rhetoric, with some vile attacks against children thrown in for good measure.

I wasn’t there. I recently left the Utah Republican Party and my leadership positions within the party. The E. Jean Carroll trial was my last straw. Knowing that a jury of his peers found the GOP frontrunner liable in that case was something I wasn’t willing to look past.

I’m not alone. According to Gallup, in 2023, independent voters constituted the largest voting bloc in the U.S. at 43%, and above 40% for most years since 2011. Only 27% of U.S. adults identify as either Republican or Democrat. In Utah, unaffiliated voters are the second largest voting bloc after Republicans at almost 30% of registered voters.

The complexities of Utah politics make leaving the Utah GOP (and/or joining the Utah GOP) a nuanced decision — staying and/or joining in order to engage in the primary election process.

Allow me to present an alternative vision, at least as it relates to the Utah Office of the Attorney General.

Utah’s office of the attorney general has had a complicated history, to say the least. Utah’s partisan system incentivizes attorneys general to follow their donors’ wishes, enables pay-to-play schemes and ignores Utah voters, to the detriment of Utah’s top law firm.

Instead of focusing on state legal work or modernizing the office’s e-discovery methods so courts don’t label them as “haphazard,” or even ensuring the office’s staff are appropriately compensated, the partisan nature of the top leadership role changes the dynamics of that traditionally nonpartisan role.

But politics have no place in law enforcement.

Utah’s judges aren’t elected, thankfully. Attorneys aren’t political. And yet Utah’s attorney general is a partisan office.

The attorney general represents Utah voters in Utah’s highest courts. Who is representing Utah voters if a hyperpartisan attorney general is beholden to national party bosses and their purse strings or, even worse, to himself?

There is no question that the office needs reform; the for-sale sign needs to go.

One idea floated by Republican leaders is to appoint the attorney general instead of elect her. But that removes choice from Utahns and consolidates even more power in a government already controlled by a supermajority of Republican legislators (80% Republican) that fails to reflect Utah’s population (50% Republican).

The better option is to elect a nonpartisan attorney general. But Utah’s laws do not currently provide for such an option.

The next best option is to elect a third-party attorney general untainted by party politics and untethered from either major political party or their purse strings — essentially, a nonpartisan attorney general.

That is why I am running as a third-party candidate and member of the United Utah Party, whose platform includes the principle of ethical government and transparency, which is one of my priorities in office.

I’ve been a Wall Street lawyer, a federal court clerk, a solo practitioner, a law school dean of admissions, a Utah State Bar commissioner, and am now a business litigator, appellate advocate and familiar face in Utah’s legal community.

As you make your decision about who you will vote for in the Republican primary over the next month, I urge you to remember there is a better option on the November ballot.

A vote for me in November will do three things:

  1. Send a message to those who have been stewards of this office for decades that voters are unhappy with that stewardship.
  2. Reform the office to what is essentially a nonpartisan attorney general and get the politics out of the office by disconnecting it from big party bosses and their purse strings.
  3. Elect the best candidate with the most experience and service in Utah’s legal community whose only interest is to refocus back on state legal issues.

I look forward to earning your vote in November.

Michelle Quist is a business litigator and appellate attorney at Holland & Hart in Salt Lake City, a mother of seven and the United Utah Party candidate for attorney general of Utah.