First the state Republican Party used radio advertisements to criticize Ted Wilson's tax record when he was mayor of Salt Lake City. Now party officials are running radio ads calling him a quitter, and Democratic Party officials are crying foul.
Wilson resigned as mayor in 1985, midway through his third term, to take a job at the University of Utah. It's that action for which GOP leaders are now criticizing him.Wilson leads Gov. Norm Bangerter by 19 points in the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll. Since he's trailing, Bangerter must take the fight to Wilson. By tradition, the toughest attacks in such campaigns come not from the candidate, but from a surrogate - in this case, Bangerter's party leaders.
The Republican radio commercial, running on the major radio stations this week, quotes the reasons Wilson gave at the time of his resignation - that he'd gotten stale in the job after so many years and had lost the motivational fire needed for the post.
"Ted Wilson walked away from Salt Lake City citizens when they needed him," the ad's narrator says. "When the going got tough, Ted got out."
Labeling Wilson as a quitter is one of the GOP's toughest hits. And Democratic Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi doesn't like it.
"We knew they were going to do this. We knew they'd stoop this low, and we're not going to take it quietly," Horiuchi said.
Horiuchi started running the Democratic Party's answer to the Republican commercial on radio stations Wednesday.
His ad says no one thought the governor's race would be a pillow fight, but that Bangerter and the Republican Party are desperate and are now running a negative campaign. Utahns know Wilson and his record as mayor, the advertisement says. They won't be fooled by such a negative campaign.
"I believe as the governor's race goes, so goes the whole election for us," said Horiuchi. "So when they go at us like this, we come out with guns blazing."
GOP Chairman Craig Moody doesn't believe the Wilson ad is unfair or negative campaigning. "Ted Wilson will only debate the governor five or six times. That is completely inadequate." (Actually, Wilson has debated Bangerter three times already and has accepted another 10 debate invitations. Bangerter, however, is having some difficulty accommodating all 10 invitations, and may only meet Wilson five or six more times).
"Debates are the way to bring out your opponent's record. But since Ted won't debate, it falls on the party to educate the voters about his record. That's what we're doing," said Moody.
And the Republican Party will continue to do it. "We (the party) have a set amount of money put aside for this race. You will see more radio advertisements ahead." Moody declined to say how much money the party has earmarked for Wilson criticisms. "We don't want them (the Democrats) to know," he said.
Moody said the Republicans are spending about $3,500 on their latest radio ads. Horiuchi said the Democrats are spending about $5,000 on their counter advertisements.