Rep. Wayne Owens believes that if you take care of the constituents at home, you can vote your conscience in Washington, D.C.
He said he has done both and expects to be returned this year as the Democratic representative of the 2nd Congressional District."I've held more town meetings and taken more business tours than any 2nd District representative ever. That's for sure. I've been in the 40 largest businesses in the district, asking management and labor what I can do to help them," Owens said.
He has also cast votes in favor of numerous House majority policies votes opposite of the rest of the Utah delegation, who are Republicans. Public opinion polls show Owens' stand on the Central American peace process and his opposition to military aid to the Contras are in variance with many 2nd Districtvoters.
But, overall, Owens doesn't believe one or two votes will harm him politically.
That's reflected, he said, in his relatively strong showing in the polls and in his fund raising. "I plan on raising $800,000 this year," he said. (His $700,000-plus effort last year was a record Utah congressional campaign.) "And no one in Utah has more broad-based support management-labor, Republican-Democratic from PACs as I have."
For example, political action committees representing US West Direct, the telephone company, and the Communications Workers of America, the telephone workers' union, have both given to Owens.
"That tells me I have broad ideological support," he said.
Owens will need it. According to the latest Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted for the Deseret News and KSL-TV, the 2nd District is 40 percent Republican, 23 percent Democratic, 35 percent independent and about 3 percent other.
To win, and keep winning, in such a marginal district Owens has to get independents and Republicans to vote for him.
Owens said that his strength in the district is reflected in who will run against him the relatively unknown Republican, Richard Snel-grove. If he was weak, or even perceived as weak, Republicans would be lining up to challenge him, he believes. They aren't.
While Snelgrove might try to paint Owens as a liberal who talks one way in Utah and does something else in Washington, Owens said that won't be possible. "First of all, you couldn't do that even if you wanted to, and I don't. With the new capabilities of the electronic medium, all is recorded. The Republicans have sent people with tape recorders to all my town meetings, they clip every newspaper article about me and have everything I say on the floor of the House."
Owens said he is a fiscal conservative a claim Republicans tried to crush two years ago. "Nobody who knows Congress can be disappointed with me on any fiscal issue. When I ran for office I said my priorities would be education, research and development and health, all in light of balancing the budget. To those priorities I now add a moderate defense.
"On defense I've done some very significant things I've brought the bacon to Utah, not the pork," a reference to his opposition to the C-17, an airplane whose construction Owens opposed even though it means jobs for the 2nd District.