SALT LAKE CITY — Democrat Greg Skordas has a lot of ground to cover in a short time to make the race against Republican Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes competitive.
A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows Reyes with a commanding lead, though less than half of voters say they would choose him and nearly a quarter remain undecided.
If the election were held today, 47% of Utahns would vote for Reyes, 24% for Skordas and 5% for Libertarian Rudy Bautista. But 24% of voters remain undecided less than a month before mail-in ballots go out.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 likely Utah voters Sept. 7-12. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
While Skordas found the poll results disappointing, he’s planning an ad campaign aimed at setting himself apart from Reyes, who has held the office since December 2013.
“We have to go after him on issues where we don’t think he’s done the right thing, and we have to distinguish ourselves. There has to be some difference,” Skordas said.
One of those issues is health care.
Skordas, a Salt Lake defense attorney and former county prosecutor, has railed against Reyes for joining a multistate lawsuit to undo the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He said Reyes is ignoring that Utah voters approved full Medicaid expansion through a ballot proposition in 2018, a law the Legislature replaced with a more limited version.
If the U.S. Supreme Court were to strike down the law, millions of Americans, including thousands in Utah, would be without coverage.
“It leaves so many people uninsured when it’s the last thing that we need in this country,” Skordas said.
Reyes, who President Donald Trump has endorsed, argues that the health care law is unconstitutional and federal overreach.
“No matter your personal feelings about the president’s tweets, his loyalty and passion to preserve the American dream and its ability to lift all demographics nationwide are supported by action and facts,” said Alan Crooks, Reyes’ campaign consultant.
Trump’s adherence to the Constitution includes the lawsuit to overturn Obamacare, he said.
“Contrary to what our opponent would lead you to believe, Republicans are not seeking to remove preexisting conditions but rather want to ensure all Americans have access to quality health care and doctors of choice,” Crooks said.
Skordas recently called Reyes out for not wearing a face mask while attending a rally for Trump in Henderson, Nevada, last weekend.
“I just thought given everything that’s going on, they should have been a little more stand up. They should have been a little more responsible and set a better example,” Skordas said.
Reyes had to wear a mask until he was tested for COVID-19 like everyone else in the VIP section, according to Crooks. They were allowed in the section only if the result was negative and then could take off the mask, he said.
Reyes wears a mask wherever he goes in Utah, except for when he’s speaking, Crooks said, adding the attorney general has been tested several times, and the result was always negative.
Skordas questions how many times Reyes has actually been tested.
“Having someone stick a thermometer to your forehead isn’t exactly a COVID test,” he said.
@SkordasGreg, I wear a mask everywhere I go in UT, adhere to COVID event guidelines & have been tested many times in last month (negative). Proud to support President Trump’s re-election & look forward to continuing our strong partnership to make Utah safer and stronger. #utpol pic.twitter.com/umcPVYmKix— Sean Reyes (@SeanReyesUT) September 15, 2020
Skordas also complained that Reyes has been unwilling to engage in debates outside the Utah Debate Commission event, moved from Oct. 1 to Oct. 21 to apparently accommodate the attorney general’s schedule. Skordas said mail-in ballots will have already gone out by then.
“It’s been horrible trying to get him to show up for a debate,” he said.
Crooks said despite continued COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, Reyes has been crisscrossing the state and GOP voter enthusiasm is on the rise.
“The gap in this race is widening as voters coalesce around their party’s candidates,” said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Perry noted the significant number of undecided voters, especially among Democrats and those who are unaffiliated. The poll shows 27% of Democrats and 34% of unaffiliated voters have not made up their minds.
“The winning candidate will be the one who can appeal to these groups and motivate them to turn in their ballots,” he said.