Political tiptoeing about the proposed Dugway Proving Ground laboratory that would test germ warfare defenses shows the lst District congressional race may again be so close that neither candidate can afford to unnecessarily offend anyone.
Supporters of both Rep. Jim hansen, R-Utah, and Democrat Gunn McKay say the other candidate is waffling about the lab for political reasons, and is seeking middle ground to try not to offend any Tooele County resident.Why would a candidate worry about Tooele County and its sparse population?
It cast about 5 percent of the votes in the lst District two years ago. But Hansen beat McKay by only 3 percentage points. "That means everywhere is important," said Russell Clark, McKay's campaign manager. Bonnie Stephens, Hansen's campaign manager, agrees. "All areas are important."
And both campaigns assume that Tooele is about evenly split over whether the lab should be built. They suppose that Dugway and Tooele Army Depot employees probably feel the lab is safe and needed. But other residents may oppose it because their area already has its share of dangerous installations.
Both candidates appear to have taken stands that could please either side.
Hansen, for example, has said the lab is needed to improve national security -- which makes lab supporters happy. But Hansen also said he wants the Army lkto better address safety concerns -- which pleases opponents.
Also, Hansen wrote the Army and asked it to delay plans for the lab, which it did and which again made opponents happy. But Hansen's letter said he made the request because "the need for this facility has been clouded somewhat by an uninformed public" -- a statement that lab supporters could applaud.
McKay, as he filed for office in late March, told the press taht he was "concerned" about the lab -- which, of course, is what lab opponents want to hear. But he then said he was for jobs that it would create, as long as those jobs are safe -- with which lab supporters would agree.
When the press asked him if he then opposed the facility, McKay said again that he is "concerned" about it. He added that he didn't have all the inside information available to him that a congressman would in making a decision. Suchmiddle ground could give hope to both sides.
Not surprisingly, those on each side say the other side is waffling but deny they are doing it themselves.
Stevens said, "Jim (Hansen) is not playing both sides of the street. We're talking about people's lives, so he wants the Army to look at safety. That is most important to him."
But she said facilities for biologic and chemical arms research are needed because "these types of arms are being used in the world right now in Iran AND Iraq."
So while she said Hansen is presenting his true feelings, she criticized McKay's statement that he was "concerned" about the lab.
But coming to McKay's defense, and to attack Hansen, was Clark. He said, "This position is not something Gunn has taken to please people. He took it because he feels it is right.
Clark said that at occasions other than McKay's filing, he has said he opposes the lab as far as he understands the proposal.
He said Hansen is the one who has doing the political posturing. Clark said Hansen had been supporting the Army's plans for the lab, until a public hearing in Salt Lake City showed strong opposition to it.