Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The snippiness started with a campaign mailer and turned downright testy last week when the two Republican candidates for Salt Lake County mayor got together for a debate.
Mike Winder chastised fellow GOP candidate Mark Crockett over a mailer sent out to Salt Lake County voters by the Crockett campaign that paints the West Valley City mayor as someone who can't keep government spending under control.
"Ask yourself, based on their records, who do you believe is ready to reform and keep spending under control?" the mailer reads. It then contrasts ways Crockett fought excessive government spending during his time on the Salt Lake County Council with allegations of reckless spending by Winder.
"Are you ready for real reform? The choice is clear," the mailer states.
Winder voiced no objections to Crockett's list of accomplishments — opposing subsidy of the Real Salt Lake soccer stadium in Sandy; fighting or working to limit 17 of 19 bond initiatives; and proposing lower county budgets in 2006, '07 and '08.
But Winder said the examples of government spending listed under his name and photo on the mailer are misleading.
According to the mailer, Winder "had (West Valley City) buy part of a hockey team"; "lobbied for and supported" a public subsidy for UTOPIA, "competing with private business and adding $150 million (in) debt"; "supported city ownership of Embassy Suites," adding $27 million in debt; and "fought for an 18 percent tax increase in 2010 and then voted against it once he had the necessary votes for it to pass."
The mailer also labels Winder as a lobbyist.
"I would have thought Mark Crockett would have learned his lesson about deceptive mailers, but here we go again," Winder fired back during Wednesday's debate at The Leonardo, hosted by KCPW and the Utah Taxpayers Association.
Winder was dredging up the slap on the wrist Crockett received from the Salt Lake Tribune in 2008, when the then-Salt Lake County Council candidate mailed to voters in his district copies of the newspaper editorial endorsing him in the race.
But the mailers were circulated in an envelope that made it appear they were coming from the newspaper. The ad was marked with the Tribune's logo and the return address area included the line: "An endorsement from the Salt Lake Tribune," along with Crockett's home address.
Crockett admitted to using the newspaper's logo in the '08 mailer but said he'd acknowledged the mistake and apologized for it.
He also defended the recent mailer, saying West Valley City did buy part of a hockey team; Winder made public statements supporting UTOPIA at West Valley City Hall in February 2010 and wrote in the Deseret News in April 2010 of his support of additional bonding for the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency; and an Embassy Suites is being constructed, with West Valley City as co-signor on the loan.
"I don't think the right way (to spur economic development in Salt Lake County) is by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on UTOPIA or on hotels," Crockett said during the debate.
Winder said the mailer distorts facts on the issues of West Valley City purchasing a share of the Utah Grizzlies and helping Embassy Suites secure financing. Both decisions were made in the best interest of West Valley taxpayers, he said.
As for UTOPIA, Winder said West Valley City got involved with the community fiber-optic project before his time on the City Council and he later voted against a refinance that increased the city's financial commitment to the project.
"I can't make it go away," he said. "I'm not going to give (UTOPIA) any more money, but we have to make the bond obligations. … I want those out there who have seen me champion UTOPIA, don't construe that with (me being) happy it's here. I'm trying to make the best out of the situation."
"I appreciate that you weren't there and didn't want it in the first place," Crockett countered. "But you did advocate for the additional bond."
Winder took particular exception to allegations that he fought for an 18 percent tax increase in West Valley City in 2010 but then voted against it when the City Council already had enough votes to pass it.
"That is wrong. That is false. That is a half truth," he said. "I was against that tax increase from the day the city manager proposed it, and I voted against it."
Crockett also defended that allegation, saying he'd received that information from several sources.
"Probably two-dozen people have told me about how you told them you advocated for it and then you voted against it and why you rationalized it," he said. "Maybe they're lying to me, but I've heard a lot of accounts about that, and that's why I think that's probably right."
The two GOP Salt Lake County mayoral candidates face a June 26 primary to see who will face Democrat Ben McAdams in the general election in November.
Crockett and Winder are scheduled to debate again next week on KSL's "Sunday Edition." The taped debate will be televised at 9 a.m. June 17 on KSL-TV.
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