Can Democrat Bill Orton actually defeat Republican Karl Snow in the heavily Republican 3rd Congressional District?
Is Orton really one of the Bobbsey Twins, behind "pernicious allegations" against Snow?Is Snow running from "accusers from his past?"
Usually the tail end of a 3rd District race is a sleeper - the Democratic candidate slowly fading into Utah Lake as the Republican goes to Congress.
Not this year. The frantic, last-minute accusations seen in the GOP September primary are replaying themselves in the general election.
The state Democratic Party released a new poll Thursday that shows Orton actually has a chance to beat Snow, if Snow is painted as a penny stock cheater who was in cahoots with a convicted felon. Snow absolutely denies the charges, calling those who bring them "convicted felons, known criminals, polygamists and other corrupt lawbreakers."
Snow charges that Orton has "best friend" ties with the man, Utah County grocer Scott Norton, who has now taken it upon his shoulders to make the connection between Snow and convicted stock promoter Michael Strand.
And Snow has asked the state Republican Party to conduct an "impartial and complete" investigation into such allegations and render a ruling before the Nov. 6 final election. GOP State Chairman Richard Snelgrove says he'll do just that.
Snow hopes this third investigation will put this issue to rest once and for all, at least as far as the voters are concerned.
"Percy Kalt and John Darger and others will never let it rest," said Clark Caras, campaign spokesman. "They are people obsessed with a vendetta."
Caras said Snow has already been been cleared by two different reports involving five lawyers and two accountants, but Orton continues to question the independence of those reports.
In what must be considered one of the strangest polls ever made, Democratic leaders said Thursday that a poll conducted for them by Ridder-Braden of Denver shows Snow leads Orton 47 percent to 36 percent in the 3rd District among voters who have picked a candidate or lean toward Snow or Orton.
The pollster then "pushed" the 411 respondents by listing items about each man, and then asking again who they favored. For example, pollsters said Orton is in his 40s, is a tax attorney, a Democrat, says education is his top priority and has taught at the BYU law school. They said Snow is in his 60s, was the majority leader in the state Senate, is a Republican, and allegedly helped convicted stock promoter Michael Strand sell penny stocks.
The connection with Strand, who has been convicted of income tax evasion and mail fraud in business dealings unrelated to those dealings Norton is concerned with, completely changed the poll outcome - 49 percent now said they'd vote for Orton, 39 percent favored Snow.
"I give no credibility to that poll at all," said Snelgrove. "The assertion that Karl did that (manipulated penny stocks) is completely wrong." Snelgrove said Snow has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the Strand matter by several groups. "It is old news, carried in the newspapers for months. But now it's on TV, so we go through it again. We'll be glad to have a judicial-type inquiry, because we know it will show that Karl did absolutely nothing wrong."
However, the Democratic poll does show that Orton has a chance to beat Snow, if Snow is painted in a corner with Strand. Snow lashed back at Orton in a Hinckley Institute of Politics debate Thursday afternoon, insinuating that Orton is behind the attack by Norton. "They were best friends in school. They were known as Norton and Orton, the Bobbsey Twins."
Orton countered that he and Norton never went to school together, as confirmed by BYU officials. "I was in the bishopric of (an LDS) ward during school. Scott's girlfriend attended that ward and he often came also. I've seen him only on rare occasions over the last six years."
Orton said Norton came to him several weeks ago, upset over the allegations about Strand and Snow. Norton didn't think the public was aware of them and asked Orton to make the accusations part of his campaign.
"I refused to have anything to do with it," said Orton. "I haven't talked about them at all, and I won't. I'm not the one accusing you," he added, glaring at Snow. "People from your past are your accusers."
Orton refers to Percy Kalt, a former BYU music professor who lost $30,000 in Global Oil stock. Strand promoted the stock in 1985. Snow, a friend of Strand's, was invited to be on Global's board of directors and receive 100,000 free shares of Global stock. He declined, although he did attend some Global business meetings in early 1985 and did talk to Kalt about investing in Global.
Kalt became obsessed with his $30,000 loss, demanding that Strand repay him. Kalt fire-bombed Strand's home and was sent to jail for the crime. In a press conference organized by Norton on Wednesday, Kalt says Snow misled him on the stock and should own up to it. Snow calls Kalt a "convicted felon."
John Darger was president of Global Oil. Snow says Darger is a polygamist - Darger doesn't deny it - and that Snow decided to get out of the Global deal because as a BYU administrator he didn't want to be in business with polygamists. In the Wednesday press conference, Darger called Snow a liar, saying Snow was deeply involved in early Global dealings and knew Strand was using Snow's good name to sell the stock. Snow says that's untrue and that voters shouldn't take the word of a polygamist.