Former Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown considering run against Attorney General Sean Reyes

Outgoing Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown at the party's headquarters in Salt Lake City on April 28, 2021. Brown announced Thursday he's exploring a campaign for Utah attorney general in 2024.

Outgoing Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown at the party's headquarters in Salt Lake City on April 28, 2021. Brown announced Thursday he's exploring a campaign for Utah attorney general in 2024. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Republican Party Chairman Derek Brown on Thursday announced he's considering running against Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes in 2024.

The embattled attorney general has faced increasing pressure in recent months due to his relationship with Operation Underground Railroad founder and former CEO Tim Ballard.

Brown, an attorney, former state lawmaker and congressional staffer to former Sens. Bob Bennett and Mike Lee, announced an exploratory committee led by former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

"Our country is at a critical juncture, and we need to push back against the federal power grabs that are eroding our liberties," Brown said. "Utah is known for its bold leadership and practical solutions, and I would be honored to advocate for Utah and work to preserve and uphold our constitution."

Herbert praised Brown for his "commitment to conservative principles and his ability to inspire and unite. Few attorneys in Utah have his remarkable breadth and depth of experience in both law and government."

Brown is the first potential candidate to express interest in challenging Reyes next year.

Herbert's involvement with Brown's committee is noteworthy given that the former governor first appointed Reyes to the office of attorney general in 2013.

Reyes has since been reelected in 2016 and 2020, and his current term ends in early 2025.

Brown's potential campaign comes amid intense scrutiny of the attorney general's office, including by a bipartisan group of lawmakers who just this week approved a legislative audit of Reyes' office. A letter requesting the audit was signed by six Democrats and 20 Republicans, and said lawmakers are concerned about "the governance and oversight of the AG's Office." They asked auditors to examine Reyes' relationship with Ballard to see if it impaired the state's top law enforcement officer.

Reyes and Ballard have a relationship going back nearly a decade, after Reyes traveled to Colombia as part of an Operation Underground Railroad rescue mission in 2014. The attorney general was also an associate producer of "Sound of Freedom," a recent hit film based on Ballard's career as a Department of Homeland Security agent, according to Reyes' LinkedIn page.

At least one state senator is also considering a constitutional amendment that would make the attorney general an appointed — rather than elected — position.

"In the last few weeks, troubling allegations have been connected with Utah's attorney general, Sean Reyes," Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, wrote in a survey to voters.

Five women who accused Ballard of sexual misconduct alleged in a recent court filing that Reyes tried to protect Ballard from complaints filed against him and Operation Underground Railroad. Reyes is not named as a defendant in the suit, and in a statement to, his office said it "categorically denies that he ever intimidated any witness or attempted in any way to interfere or keep witnesses from testifying or cooperating with an investigation by the Davis County attorney or any other agency."

Reyes issued a statement last month saying he was unaware of the allegations that Ballard used the so-called "couples ruse" to groom and sexually assault women posing as his "wife" on undercover rescue missions."

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.


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