Is the election only three weeks away?

You can tell things are getting heated in the 2nd Congressional District just by the exchange of accusations between candidates the past several days.- "Wayne Owens is no friend of senior citizens." - state GOP executive director Greg Hopkins.

- "What Genevieve Atwood says today and what she did as a legislator are very different, and her record shows it." - Art Kingdom, Owens' press secretary.

- "Wayne's claim that he is a fiscal conservative, second to none, couldn't be farther from the truth" - Genevieve Atwood.Federal elections in big-city districts are usually waged in the media the last several weeks of a campaign, and it's clear this year's contest between incumbent Democrat Owens and Republican challenger Atwood will be no different.

Besides their statements to the press, both are planning last-minute TV and radio campaigns to show that the other isn't what he/she appears.

In a Deseret News/KSL-TV poll taken two weeks ago, Atwood pulled to within 9 percentage points of Owens, 40-49 percent. Other polls taken since have a wider margin for Owens, and Deseret News/KSL-TV pollster Dan Jones says the general feeling is that momentum has swung back to the incumbent.

But Atwood promises a strong finish, at least in the media if not in the ballot box.

Atwood campaign manager Stan Smith says Atwood will start running a TV ad next week that "contrasts her financial, fiscal approach to that of Mr. Owens."

Atwood will speak about Owens' use of the congressional frank - free mailing privileges. Owens spent more than $200,000 the last several years on newsletters to 2nd District constituents, higher than other Utah congressmen.

"Wayne has been tagged a `Big Spender' by the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union," says Atwood. "He ranks dead last as a fiscal conservative in the Utah delegation. Look at his voting record, you'll see Owens votes for every budget-busting proposal."

Meanwhile, Owens will start running a TV advertisement this week that slams Atwood for voting, he says, against education and social programs while serving in the Utah Legislature in the 1970s.

"Wayne Owens brought millions home for vital improvements and for our seniors, veterans and downwinders (those harmed by nuclear-bomb testing)," Owens' ad says. "And Genevieve Atwood? As a legislator, Atwood opposed $394 million in funding for Utah schools. She voted to cut the inspection of nursing homes and to kill the state's office for veterans. Two records. But one choice. Wayne Owens, fighting and winning for Salt Lake County."

Kingdom says that when Owens figured his Republican opponent would be Dan Marriott, whom Atwood defeated in the primary, that campaign strategists were looking forward to comparing Owens' record with Marriott's. (Marriott held the 2nd District seat for eight years).

"But we've found that Genevieve's record in the Legislature is just as good from our standpoint," said Kingdom.

Atwood says Owens had more than a dozen opportunities this year to at least try to cut government spending, but failed to support any budget-trimming measures.

"Owens voted to raise his salary by $35,000, then denied that it was a pay raise. He voted to spend $6 million for a fish farm in Iowa City and voted against cutting $80,000 for elevator operators in Congress in an automatic-elevator bill. His voting record (on fiscal matters) is so bad that he is ranked dead last by the independent organization The Watchdogs of the Treasury," said Atwood.