Democrat Wayne Owens has been tying himself so closely to popular GOP Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch that you'd think the trio triple-date with their wives.

This week Owens' 2nd District Republican opponent, Genevieve Atwood, started running radio advertisements that have Garn and Hatch endorsing her - and stepping away from the clinging Owens.Owens says he's "close personal friends" with Hatch and Garn and that they work great together as a team in Congress for Utah.

In their formal endorsement of Atwood, Garn and Hatch, though given a chance to slam Owens and some of the statements he's made, stayed cordial. Even friendly.

"Yes, I'm friends with Wayne," said Garn. "I'm friends with all the people I serve with in Congress. We do work together on local and state issues. But I can't imagine anyone I could have greater differences with on national issues."

Owens is campaigning hard on his "effectiveness" for Salt Lake County constituents. He gives as examples the Central Utah Project - on which he says he worked closely with Garn - and compensation for victims and their families of nuclear bomb fallout - where he and Hatch co-sponsored legislation. Without him in Congress, those measures wouldn't have passed, Owens says.

Atwood says, "Wayne says judge him on CUP. Well, he failed to bring it home." (The refunding bill passed the House and Senate but failed in a conference committee.)

Garn, with Atwood sitting at his side in a Thursday morning press conference, said Owens didn't fail on the CUP. "We got caught up in California politics. We'll get it (when Congress convenes in January)."

Owens says the radiation compensation bill wouldn't have made it through the Democratic-controlled House without him - Utah's only congressman in the majority.

Not true, said Hatch. "It would have passed (without Owens). Everyone was for it. Jim Hansen (1st District GOP representative) revitalized that effort in 1985 (before Owens returned to Congress in 1987).

"Some people around here (meaning Owens) tend to take credit for others' work," said Hatch. "We all worked on the CUP."

But Owens maintains that neither Hansen - "who has gotten just three minor bills through Congress in 10 years" - nor 3rd District GOP Rep. Howard Nielson - "who has only gotten four minor bills through in eight years" - could have gotten the Democratic House to approve $300 million for a Western water project in a year of deficit-cutting mania.

"The CUP has been approved for 36 years," said Garn. "It was a team effort."

Garn and Hatch said they can count on Owens when it comes to Utah issues, but that he fails to pass muster on national issues, especially the budget.

That's not how Owens sees it. "On most national issues, Jake and Orrin and I disagree, except on fiscal (money) matters. Then we're pretty close. On state issues we're together and work well together, except on environmental issues. And then we're very, very far apart."

Hatch and Garn cringe when compared to Owens on fiscal matters. "He votes with the Democratic leadership 95 percent of the time," said Hatch.