Utah's gubernatorial election has taken on all the cliches of a presidential campaign.
Democratic challenger Ted Wilson is asking how much Gov. Norm Bangerter knows and when he learned it, and Bangerter is all but chanting "Where is Ted?"In a tit-for-tat political exchange Thursday, Wilson accused the governor of being a year late in asking questions about the proposed merger of Utah Power & Light. Bangerter responded by calling a press conference to accuse Wilson of taking pot shots and of not taking a stand on the issues. And Bangerter also gave a speech Thursday accusing Wilson of being scared to debate him.
The brouhaha started Wednesday when Bangerter gave reporters copies of a letter he sent to UP&L officials. The letter asked six questions ranging from where headquarters of the merged company would be to how local employment, production and service would be affected and what savings would be realized and passed to Utah customers.
UP&L announced more than a year ago it wanted to merge with PacifiCorp, which is based in Portland, Ore.
After Bangerter's questions appeared in local papers, Wilson issued a statement saying Bangerter should have learned the answers more than a year ago.
"This is another example of the hide-and-seek leadership of Norman Bangerter," Wilson said. "It appears to me to be more election-year hype. In fact, if the governor had just read the newspapers, he might have received answers to the questions he asked."
Bangerter said he did ask UP&L the same questions a year ago. He decided to ask again because UP&L employees recently sent him anonymous letters voicing concerns about the merger.
"My question is where is Ted Wilson?" Bangerter said. "Ted, you can run but you can't hide. The answers are not found in the newspapers. It's time for you to stand up and be counted."
Bangerter said Wilson has yet to say whether he supports the merger.
"It's offensive to me when I am criticized by a man who hasn't even bothered to take a position. That's negative campaigning," Bangerter said.
Bangerter said he supports the proposed merger. He just wants UP&L officials to reassure worried employees and customers.
Also in a speech to the Women's Council of Realtors on Thursday, Bangerter criticized Wilson for not showing up at that meeting to debate.
"I have to admit that I am disappointed that Ted Wilson isn't here. I understand that this was originally intended to be an opportunity for us to debate. It's fair to say that Ted's not anxious to debate," Bangerter said.
"I had accepted over 25 debate invitations and hoped to have at least 30 opportunities. It looks like Ted's only going to accept a dozen or less. That's too bad. Why is it too bad? Because it is the best way for voters to compare the candidates and to evaluate the differences."
Wilson has said he doesn't necessarily want to appear at meetings whenever Bangerter says he should, but that ample opportunities to debate will occur.