Genevieve Atwood claims she's within 10 percentage points of Democrat Wayne Owens in their 2nd Congressional District race and hopes her new poll will result in $150,000 in support from the National Republican Committee and Owens' defeat in five weeks.
Whether Owens believes that poll or not, he's on the offensive, attacking Atwood over her "squishy" stands on issues and her legislative voting record.Atwood said several weeks ago that she's hard on money issues but a bit "squishy" on environmental and social issues, "which I'm proud of." Last week she recanted her "squishy" comment, saying it was unwise and she's not squishy on any issues. She says she's tough-minded and solid on money issues and caring on environmental and social issues.
Owens, whom Atwood hopes to unseat in November, has made a radio advertisement replaying Atwood's "squishy" statement and then criticizing her for it.
After listing a number of instances when Owens "fought for the people" of Salt Lake County and Utah, the announcer says, "Squishy, he ain't. Effective he is."
Speaking from her new campaign headquarters, which opened Friday, Atwood released parts of a new poll conducted for the National Republican Committee by local pollsters Ray Briscoe and Dan Jones. Briscoe said the poll shows that if the election were held today, 38 percent would vote for Atwood, 46 percent for Owens and 15 percent are undecided.
"This is great news for us," said Atwood. "I'm off to Washington, D.C., next Tuesday with this poll. Some of those guys don't know where Utah is, much less who I am." Atwood hopes to impress the national committee with the poll.
"I think she will get their support," said Briscoe. "Eight points back and closing with five weeks left? We got ahorse race here." Atwood said national committee officials want to see an incumbent below 50 percent and a challenger within 10 points before they give their stamp of approval. "And we have both," she said smiling broadly. "Wayne is taking me seriously."
He sure is. Thursday, Democratic State Chairman Peter Billings Jr., standing in for Owens while Owens attends to his U.S. House duties, lambasted Atwood for claiming, in a previous speech, that she cares about the unfortunate. In reality, said Billings, she voted against them while in the Utah Legislature.
Billings quoted from a July 31 Atwood speech in which she said, "I care. I care about children, the elderly, those in need, the veteran, the sick, the handicapped, the unemployed, the uninsured, the unskilled and the victims of crime and prejudice."
He then said, "What about the elderly? Genevieve voted not to eliminate architectural barriers for the aged and physically handicapped on March 6, 1975. What about the handicapped? She voted no to a tax decrease for mentally retarded or incompetent beneficiaries of trust funds on March 13, 1975.
"What about the victims of crime? She voted no to a mandatory increase in sentences if a firearm is used in commission of a felony. What about veterans? She voted to abolish the Office of Veterans Affairs in March of 1979.
"What about those in need? She voted no to state medical examinations for residents around the Vitro chemical plant. And what about the children? Genevieve voted no to appropriating $363 million for Utah's public schools on Feb. 2, 1980 - for more money for textbooks, reduced class sizes and funds for handicapped children."
Atwood said individual votes can be taken out of context - as those votes have - and she'll respond to each after she studies them.