If 1st District voters don't see much of Rep. Jim Hansen this election, it's because he's in Washington, D.C., working, not at home campaigning.
Congress may well stay in session until Oct. 25. If so, that gives Hansen only two weeks of full campaigning before the election.A healthy lead in the polls over Democrat Kenley Brunsdale eases Hansen's campaign demands. The latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows Hansen leads Brunsdale 59-26 percent. "If he stays in Washington until the end of October, and that's very likely, this will be the shortest campaign of his congressional career," says Peter Jenks, one of Hansen's aides. Originally, the House was supposed to adjourn a week ago. But that has been extended at least until Oct. 20 and may well go beyond that.
Hansen has been named by Republican House leaders to the conference committee that must hammer out a defense budget agreement with the Senate. Hansen sits on the House Armed Services Committee and will be a conferee on conventional and strategic weapons.
"(Hansen) is nervous about having to explain what he's been doing," Brunsdale said, complaining about Hansen's refusal to debate him more often. "He is adopting a new plan to exploit the cynical assumption that he will be re-elected automatically just because he is a Republican and an incumbent."
Only two of Utah's five federal representatives - Hansen and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah - are on the ballot this November. Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, is retiring and Sens. Orrin Hatch and Jake Garn, both R-Utah, aren't up for election this year.Owens will likely be back in his Salt Lake County home district more than Hansen visits his district in northern and western Utah.
Owens isn't on a budget conference committee, said Art Kingdom, his press aide. "But he won't miss the many important votes back here. He'll campaign (in Salt Lake) every weekend, during the week if possible. This is his job, and he won't shirk it (to campaign)."
Owens, the lone Democrat in the delegation, faces a tough challenge from Republican Genevieve Atwood, who is campaigning full-time, having resigned as director of the Utah Geological and Mineral Survey a year ago to concentrate on the election.
Brunsdale and others have criticized Hansen for not debating or spending enough time in the district.
For example, Owens and Atwood have more than a dozen debates scheduled. Hansen, on the other hand, has only seven debates scheduled with Brunsdale - a former aide to Owens who has been hitting Hansen hard on a variety of issues only to see little impact in the public opinion polls.
Margaret Mayer, of the Davis County League of Women Voters, says she's frustrated with Hansen over his refusal to meet Brunsdale in debates. "He won't attend our debate in Davis County, or Logan or Ogden. It's like he feels he can do whatever he wants and he'll win," she said.
Jenks said Hansen is sorry he can't attend the league debates. "They picked days when he is either in Washington or has a conflict he can't break. We're sending a representative to the Logan debate, and that's acceptable to that league. We're attending all the media debates, although he may have to be on the phone for one of them and not present himself," Jenks said.