Veterans test candidates for county’s top cop

ST. GEORGE – The two men campaigning to be Washington County attorney spoke to local veterans Wednesday night. The mayor’s Veterans Action Council hosted this candidate forum, where both current County Attorney Brock Belnap and his challenger, Nathan Caplin, answered questions on a variety of topics, from the recent events at the Bundy ranch to how both candidates will serve the veterans of Washington County.

During the forum, each candidate was allowed 45 minutes of uninterrupted time to answer five questions that neither had seen prior to taking the podium. Caplin started off the forum, followed by Belnap.

The first question posed was:

How do you feel about the statement “The job of a politician is NOT to represent the people; the job of a politician is to get elected.”

Nathan Caplin address’ the audience at the forum. St George Vet Center. St George, Ut June 11, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney St George News
Nathan Caplin addresses the audience at the candidate forum, St. George Vet Center, St George, Utah, June 11, 2014 | Photo by T.S. Romney, St. George News

“The job of a politician, under all circumstances, is to represent the people,” Caplin said. “There are some exceptions: when the people violate the social contract that has been laid down for the states, the national government and the citizens. That social contract is called our U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution.”

“I don’t see myself as a politician,” Belnap said. “I realize I am running for an elected office and that requires someone to campaign. I see myself as a public servant who is doing the best he can to carry out his duties. I think that if your heart is not in the place you are serving and it is all about you, then you should not be doing it. If you want an attorney who will work hard and pursue the best interest of the people, that’s who I am. I am not a flamboyant politician full of promises.”

Describe your personal feelings about the BLM vs. Bundy incident and how you would have handled the situation if you were the county attorney.

The Clark County attorney was nowhere to be seen,” Caplin said. He went on to say that the Clark County attorney’s choice was a safe and politically wise choice; however, he feels his job would have been to represent the people.

“Bundy did a good job in this sense: He presented an issue to the American public which had largely been ignored. That issue is public lands,” Caplin said. “However, Bundy made mistakes in his speech and in his approach to dealing with this issue. The way we need to do things is orderly and lawfully.”

“What we saw happen in Nevada was a travesty and a tragedy, and it didn’t need to happen,” Belnap said. “It points out how important it is for Utah to have control over its public lands.” Belnap went on to point out that he is currently suing the federal government for control over backcountry roads.

“I personally went to Nevada and met with the director of the operation, along with our lieutenant governor, the attorney general and Sheriff Pulsipher,” Belnap said. “The only reason the lieutenant governor and the attorney general were there at that meeting was because myself, the county commission and the sheriff called them and said, ‘Those cattle are not coming through Washington County.’”

How do you feel about the Veterans Judicial Initiative (Vet Court), what will be the “trouble spots,” and how will you handle any “special casing” complaints and public outcry?

Caplin said we have mental court and drug court and he feels both programs are very effective because they get to the root cause of the problem.

“There isn’t one reason against it,” Caplin said. “If we do it for the mentally ill or for drug addiction, we need to do it for those we owe most.”

Brock Belnap address’ the audience at the forum. St George Vet Center. St George, Ut June 11, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney St George News
Brock Belnap addresses the audience at the candidate forum, St. George Vet Center, St. George, Utah, June 11, 2014 | Photo by T.S. Romney St George News

Belnap said, “One of the things I am most proud of during my tenure as Washington County attorney is the development of our special courts to help folks who have special circumstances. I have worked for the last four years with different individuals to get the veterans court off the ground.”

Belnap went on to say he was excited the veterans court initiative would build bridges between vets and law enforcement through training and communication and that veterans could answer for the crimes they have committed yet get the treatment they need.

How will it serve the veterans of Washington County to elect you as our county attorney?

I am a huge advocate of veterans court,” Caplin said. “Huge advocate for recognizing the underlying reasons for people’s mistakes. If a person commits such a terrible crime such as burglary, rape or murder, the full force of law should come down on you. But it makes sense, and it’s just and it’s right, to consider a veteran’s experience when he had committed a minor crime.”

“The veterans court is one example,” Belnap said. “I also have an open-door policy; people can come and see me anytime, for any aspect, and if I can help my heart is in the place to help. Just like any other citizen in Washington County, veterans want the county attorney’s office to be run efficiently, effectively, to do a great job keeping our taxes low and keeping the county out of legal trouble.”

Why do you want to be the Washington County attorney; why would you rather practice government law rather than in the private sector?

“I want to be the county attorney, but I would not rather practice government law than private law. Private law has a lot of advantages: First, you have a receptionist, secretary, a paralegal, and they screen all your calls,” Caplin joked. “Yes, I want to be county attorney, but I recognize it is not going to be easy. I am arguing to expand what the county attorney does.” Caplin went on to say he feels the county attorney could be the tip of the spear in heading off potential federal battles, again saying he would combine legal preparation and an awareness of certain issues and anticipate them as they come down from the federal agencies.

Belnap’s final question differed slightly from Caplin’s:

Why do you want to be the Washington County attorney; wouldn’t asserting citizens’ rights over government overreach be biting the hand that is feeding you?

“The people are the government. Protecting people’s individual rights is the primary job of the county attorney,” Belnap said. “Prosecutors have different ethical rules than any other attorney. Every other attorney’s obligation is to win at all cost. A prosecutor has a special responsibility to be a minister of justice. They seek the truth. They don’t try to win at all cost. We have a unique responsibility to bring the power of government down on an individual. That is a great responsibility – to make sure we prosecute vigorously and hold people accountable, but to make sure we protect the innocent. I have experience and a successful track record.”

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19 Comments

  • Silence Dogood June 11, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    Belnap has had several years as county attorney. He is part of the good old boy problem in Washington County. My vote will go to Chaplin because it’s time to kick these career politicians out on their rear.

    • Festus Hagen June 12, 2014 at 1:48 am

      Your a fool… Belnap 2014!

  • the capitalist June 12, 2014 at 12:56 am

    If you think Belnap is the “good ol’ boy” in this race, you haven’t been paying attention. Caplin is running on his dad’s connections and money and the fact he related to half of the oldtimers in St. Geo
    Voting against a man simply because he is an incumbent is casting an uninformed vote. Brock has done a good job. He should be returned. Caplin is a politician and is grossly unqualified for the job

  • EL JEFE June 12, 2014 at 6:56 am

    After Belnap is replaced, which is about time he is, the focus should then turn to some of the County Commissioners also. As SILENCE DOGOOD states above, he has been a major part of what of the “system” and it IS time for new blood….such as was with the City of St. George Mayor. Heck, even the people of Washington County didn’t want McArthur as a Commissioner. Change at the County Administration lever is needed, and long overdue.

    • Mr. Dixie June 12, 2014 at 9:37 am

      Oh look. Another uninformed Caplin voter. … What a shocker! … Two county commissioners are being replaced this term, and the other county commissioner is retiring in two years, so that’s already happened.

      But the county attorney position, no matter how many times Caplin tries to misinform his sheeple, is not a policymaking position. It can’t be under state statute. Caplin knows this, but misleads the voters because he wants to be a policymaker. So you’re voting for a guy who is outright saying he will expand the powers of the county attorney beyond what he is actually allowed to do. Sounds like Caplin is closer to Obama than Reagan to me.

      • Ben Wilson June 12, 2014 at 11:14 am

        Mr. Dixie:
        Why do you need to hide behind a pseudonym and why do you feel the need to call Caplin supporters sheeple? Why don’t you tell the world who you are. My hunch is that you work for the county attorney’s office, or one of the police agencies in the county. Where is your integrity? Caplin is not trying to mislead his voters. He does not want to be a policy maker. You sound like you are reading from the flyer that was created by people who work in the county attorneys office to smear Caplin. I think it is funny that Belnap and his supports have engaged in a full-out attack on Caplin and his character. On the contrary, Nate has told his supporters time and time again to not say anything negative about Brock. How about this little fact for misleading voters. Brock and his followers have said time and again that Warren Jeffs is behind bars because Brock prosecuted him and got a conviction. The problem is that the conviction of Warren Jeffs was overturned by the Supreme Court. When this is pointed out to Brock or his supporters, they say it was overturned because of defense counsel error. However that is another lie. It was not overturned for defense counsel error. It was overturned for erroneous jury instructions. The court used the misleading jury instructions that Brock and the prosecution wanted to use, but it excluded the jury instructions defense counsel wanted to use. But that is not all. It gets even better. The Utah Supreme Court then went on to comment about how Brock and the prosecution wanted to expand the meaning of accomplice so that it would cover Jeffs. You see, the law as it was written would not have included Jeffs as an accomplice. So, Brock wanted to expand the meaning of accomplice to include what Jeff’s had done. The Court comments extensively about how that is wrong and it should never be done. So what our country attorney did was try to change the law or have it applied in such a way that the legislature did not intend, because that was the only way they were going to get a conviction. So, I am voting for Caplin. I don’t want a county attorney who has a proven record of trying to change the law just to get a conviction on people.

  • Voting for Belnap June 12, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Hahahaha. Belnap is a goid old boy and Caplin is not? Check the yearbooks and genealogy charts, Silence. They’re both from here. Caplin is supported by ALL the good old boy Dixie-ites (Atkin, Smith, Booth, etc.), his 600+ relatives, and a few mayors strong-armed by his wealthy father. Belnap is supported by every attorney in his office, the sheriff, and the chiefs of police. Career politician? Let’s see who runs for higher office … Belnap, who worked in the County Attorney’s office prior to running, or Caplin, who has hinted not so subtly at his intentions to use the county attorney position as a stepping stone by reinventing its scope and authority. Vote however you want, but rethink silly reasoning.

  • Fred June 12, 2014 at 8:30 am

    I agree with Silence Dogwood. Vote for Caplin.

  • Ken June 12, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I would have to agree that Belnap is part of the good ole boy and a career politician. But the sheeple lack the backbone to change. This county if full of kool-aid drinkers and pulpit voters. Nothing changed in the mayor being replaced just the figurehead.

  • Legal Eagle June 12, 2014 at 9:27 am

    it is time for change! Belnap has been in office for a LONG time and how many of us could of described what he looked like prior to this election? Crickets…

    • flabap June 12, 2014 at 10:11 am

      It is nice that he hasn’t been trying to get his face plastered everywhere and take credit for everything isn’t it? good point. He has good results and good programs. That’s better than a pretty face in the paper.

    • Jon R. Cocktoasten June 12, 2014 at 11:29 am

      Belnap isn’t a news whore, he works behind the scenes to get things done! EVERYONE in the state recognizes Sim Gill the Salt Lake County Attorney because he IS a news whore! Gill does more work against law enforcement than he does for it! If that’s the kind of County Attorney you want, move to SLC! Belnap is the experience, honesty, integrity and fairness we NEED in the County Attorney position!

  • flabap June 12, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Nobody is giving any reasoning for calling Belnap a “good ol boy”. Just because he has been in there for a while does not make him a career politician or a good ol boy. I have to agree with the Belnap supporters above. Belnap has several tangible programs and improvements in place as has shown his worth.

    You can read it in Caplin’s responses. He just wants to do this for political gain to get to the next level. That is the only reason he is spewing crap that is out of his scope as county attorney. (remind anyone else of Obama?) He can only ride the Bundy train so far before it runs off the track.

  • Mike Beers June 12, 2014 at 10:46 am

    County Attorney’s main job is prosecuting crime and enforcing County and State Laws. Belnap has done a very good job and does not have any ambition other than serving the County to the best of his ability. Caplin has NO experience and is trying to expand powers and office for his own glory. Do the math; I’m voting Belnap!

    • Ben Wilson June 12, 2014 at 11:43 am

      MIke:

      I think it is wrong for you to say Caplin is trying to expand the powers and office for his own glory. Such a statement shows your lack of character and integrity. I did that math and I am wondering how in the world you know what is going on in Nate’s head and what his intentions are? The fact is, you don’t. Your comment is misleading. Nate has never said he wants to expand the powers of the county attorney or engage in policy making. His ideas and what he wants to do are not outside the powers of the county attorney. To suggest otherwise is dishonest. It seems that Brock and his supporters figured out a while back that the only way Brock was going to beat Nate was to smear Nate’s name and character. What other explanation is there for the fact that Brock and his supporters talk about little else than Caplin? I don’t have any qualm about your support for Brock, but your apparent lack of integrity is troubling.

  • EL JEFE June 12, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Me thinks all the pro-Belnap commenters are employed at the county attorney’s office or the county. Oh well…..

    • flabap June 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      We do sound rather well educated. I don’t work there but I will take that as a compliment.

  • Voting for Belnap June 12, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Me too, Flabap! I’m not an attorney, I don’t work for the county, and I don’t have anything to gain from either candidate’s election. I’m not even very political! But I am a thinking person, and I’ve watched this race carefully. I’ve even attended several events. And I have yet to hear one negative word about Nathan come out pf Belnap’s mouth. But I have seen some pretty rough and tumble intimidation and retaliation tactics from the Caplin family, and that distresses me. They’ve thrown around some serious money trying to buy this election, and that frightens me. To say Nate wants to work within the county attorney’s role is not true. He has openly said he doesn’t have an interest in the criminal side, will focus on constitutional issues, and has offered opinions on everything under the sun — even the educational curriculum of the school district. To declaim Nate’s innocence and say he hasn’t attacked his opponent makes me laugh. His campaign slogan: “Return to the Constitution” was an outright attack on Brock Belnap that was offensive to me. The fact that those who work for Brock are so adamant in their support — as are the members of the law enforcement community — speaks volumes. Those individuals will all retain their positions no matter who wins. They will all continue to do their jobs well. But they’ve stuck out their necks to support Brock. I believe the reason is that they are public servants who care deeply about the work they do and do not want to see the county attorney’s office turned over to a neophyte who has not demonstrated any ability to do the job. Sorry, but those are my thoughts. I also believe Nate is a good guy who will find a way to serve. I just pray it’s not in this position because there are lives at stake.

  • Woody Beardsman June 13, 2014 at 6:42 am

    I’ve attended some events and read as much into the details and history of each candidate that I could.

    Put very simply,

    At the Vet center it was asked what the current county prosecutors currently carry as a caseload and what types of cases do they currently prosecute. I found it very telling that most prosecutors start out with traffic violations and misdemeanors, and usually carry roughly 250 cases a year. Currently there were 13 county prosecutors who would be managed by the County Attorney, and the variety of cases went from traffic violations to capital cases.

    I’ve read, but not been able to verify myself, that Nathan in his work as the city prosecutor for Hildale, has worked roughly 50+ cases, comprised of mostly traffic violations, and a couple misdemeanors. So far no felony cases. I’d love to see the actual stats if anyone has them.

    How do people rationalize, and make the leap that it’s a great idea to bring in someone so green, and with so limited experience. Appointing them to manage and lead people with such a deeper and broader understanding and practice of the law, and expect it to be a good fit for our county? It’s mind boggling to me.

    I will say that one thing that really took me by surprise, and left my mouth agape was Caplin was asked at the meeting at the Vet Center, if he was familiar with the issues surrounding Hildale, the United Effort Plan, and how it affects the families etc. (I can’t remember the exact way the question was worded)

    Caplins very first statement, very first…. Was to make a point that although he works for Hildale as the prosecutor, that he was an outsider and he wasn’t sure.

    It honestly left me with the impression that he was distancing himself from the polygamous community who currently employs him, because he didn’t want to be associated with HIldale in anyway. I was dumbstruck… Who did he think he was representing by being the city prosecutor? If you don’t know your community, how well can you successfully represent them as an outsider?

    Once I saw and heard both candidates, it was so very clear who could more fully serve the county and deliver the results and outcomes we deserve.

    I’m voting Belnap,

    I could tell he wasn’t really a politician, but an honest, hard working attorney who felt his work was important, and wanted to keep providing a service to the county and community that he could continue to be proud of.

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