Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert has weathered a tumultuous second term in office with a well-earned reputation for sound leadership. He has navigated the ship of state through a perilous economic recession and, importantly, helped to moderate his party's more extreme factions. Utah would be well served with Herbert at the helm for another four years.

That is not to say that all of his policies sit well with a majority of Summit County residents, many of whom are justifiably disappointed in Herbert's stands on public lands and environmental conservation. Nevertheless, the governor has convinced us that he is willing to listen to all stakeholders and, if he is re-elected, we intend to hold him to that promise.

His Democratic opponent, Peter Cooke, has mounted a spirited campaign that has been especially critical of the governor's apparent coziness with special interests and his failure to head off problems like the mismanagement of the Division of Alcohol and Beverage Control and the Utah Medicaid data breach.

Cooke's concerns are valid and he does the public a service by demanding the governor's response on those issues. In doing so, he epitomizes the definition of the loyal opposition, whose criticism is constructive and rooted in a desire to serve the state's best interests. But Cooke's relentless emphasis on criticism of the governor's office and the legislature would likely make it difficult to form the coalitions needed to move the dominant party toward Park City's and Summit County's more liberal positions.

In lieu of hiring Cooke as a permanent watchdog, the best way to ensure transparency and accountability in the governor's office and the legislature is for voters to elect a Democratic attorney general. Fortunately there is a strong candidate on the Democratic side of the ticket, Dee W. Smith.

Smith whose credentials as a prosecutor cement his support for law enforcement, has also expressed his reluctance to use the position to push "message lawsuits." Specifically, Smith said he opposes efforts to sue the federal government. That could help put the brakes on House Bill 148, the Transfer of Lands Act, a measure that could jeopardize the future of more than 20 million acres of federally controlled land.

Smith's opponent, John Swallow, on the other hand, is hell bent on pursuing the right wing's agenda, by any means necessary. He supports the misguided land grab, which many of the legislature's own advisors say will likely be deemed unconstitutional, and he wants to overturn the federal Affordable Health Care Act.

As expected, that stance plays well with the national conservative PACs and he has been well rewarded by them with campaign contributions. Swallow received a quarter of a million dollars from the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee. comparison, Smith has raised less than half a million dollars all told.

This is just one of many reasons not to vote a straight ticket. As Summit County voters go to the polls next week and on Nov. 6, we urge them to consider each race individually. There are candidates on both sides of the ticket who have valuable skills to offer.

Early voting continues next week, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Richins Building at Kimball Junction, the Marsac Building in Park City, Kamas City Hall and the Summit County Courthouse in Coalville.