SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic Utah Attorney General candidate Jon Harper announced he was dropping out of the race Wednesday, citing unspecified health reasons, which leaves Democrats without a candidate in the race and all but assures Republican incumbent Sean Reyes will be re-elected this November.
Reyes, who has been in office since late 2013, already had a huge advantage as the GOP candidate in a deeply conservative state.
Harper, a Salt Lake City attorney, said in a statement released by the Democratic Party that he was leaving the race on the advice of his doctor.
He did not release further details and messages left with Harper Wednesday morning were not immediately returned.
The announcement came hours before he was scheduled to debate Reyes for the first time.
Yandary Zavala, a spokeswoman for the Utah Democratic Party, said Harper had not shared details of his medical issues with the party and the party did not inquire out of respect for his privacy.
“We just hope that his health improves,” Zavala said.
Zavala said the party cannot replace Harper on the ballot because it was already certified.
Mark Thomas, the director of state elections, said Harper had not officially withdrawn Wednesday morning. He said some ballots have already started to be printed and Harper’s name would likely remain on the ballots.
Thomas said if the office receives official word that Harper is dropping out, elections officials may insert some sort of notice with ballots to let voters he decided against running. Any votes Harper ends up receiving will not be counted.
In the statement announcing he was dropping out, Harper thanked his friends and family for their support.
He also said he hopes the issues he has raised in the campaign so far resonate with his GOP opponent and that Reyes will put public interest over party politics and address any lingering problems following a pay-for-play scandal that ensnared two former state attorneys general.
Reyes campaign consultant Alan Crooks said Reyes wishes Harper well and that some things are more important that politics.
“We just hope he’s all right,” Crooks said.
Reyes also released a statement Wednesday saying that he admires anyone who is willing to put themselves before the public in a campaign.
Two third party candidates, Independent American Michael Isbell and Libertarian Andrew McCullough, remain in the race against Reyes, but Harper and Reyes were the only candidates scheduled to participate in a debate Wednesday night because they met a polling threshold set by the Utah Debate Commission.
Wednesday night’s debate will now be a town-hall style event for Reyes to answer questions, Crooks said.
Utah Democratic Party Chair Peter Corroon said the party appreciated that Harper entered the race and supported his decision to drop out.
“At the end of the day, Jon’s health and family should be his first priority,” Corroon said in a statement.
Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.