Brian Moss says there is one campaign issue this year in the U.S. Senate race: the economy. Or as Moss refers to it at various times, the "disastrous," "failing," "faltering" and "ruinous" economy.Moss maintains that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who wants a third six-year term in the U.S. Senate, has done nothing for Utah's economy. Not only has Hatch not helped the economy, he has voted time and again to trim federal education dollars, resulting in "tax increases on the local level to maintain our education system as it is," Moss said.
The crux of Moss' complaint?
Hatch has a national agenda; votes for that agenda, not for Utah; and now must be held accountable to Utahns.
Of course, that was the theme Ted Wilson tried to carry against Hatch in Wilson's unsuccessful 1982 challenge of the senator. Wilson, who is running for governor this year, was handily defeated by
Hatch, whose Reaganite "stay the course" slogan was pounded into the voters' minds.
But Moss said six years has brought changes changes in the Utah electorate and changes in the national and local economies. Reagan won't play a role in this year's election like he did in 1982, even if Hatch can get the president to visit Utah, Moss added.
"The economy and what Hatch was doing on this or that national item were issues in 1982, true. But now things have gotten worse. We created only a little more than 6,000 jobs in Utah last year. We needed 18,000. In 1979, Utah's average wage was 82 percent of the national average. Now it is 75 percent.
"The economic issues were there in 1982, but now they are screaming loudly. We desperately need a senator who will work for Utah, not himself," Moss said.
"You see (Hatch) on TV interview programs all the time. He's talking about Iran/Contra or Supreme Court appointments all while there is a crisis at home that he's not paying attention to.
"That vote in the Senate that (Hatch) has doesn't belong to him. It belongs to the people of Utah. His power in the Senate shouldn't be used for Hatch, but to bring jobs to Utah."
How that message will sell, and how he can get that message out, are Moss' challenges this year.
Moss comes to the race with some distinct disadvantages:
He'll be outspent and out-organized by Hatch. The senator has already raised more than $1 million. Moss has raised $12,000.
The state is 2-1 Republican. During presidential election years, party politics traditionally play a more important role in how people vote.
And Moss starts from way back. Moss trails Hatch in early head-to-head, match-up polls by 40 points.
"I know it will be an uphill battle," Moss says. "But I've already moved up in the polls some, and I'm optimistic."
Moss does have some things going for him. His name is well-known. Moss, 43, is the son of former U.S. Sen. Frank Moss, D-Utah. Hatch unseated the elder Moss in 1976.
And Moss is an articulate newcomer, not unlike the Orrin Hatch of 1976 who burst upon the Utah political scene unknown to voters.
Moss does face an intra-party challenge. Retired Cedar City FBI man Joe Cwik has already filed as a Democrat for the Senate race. But Moss was hand-picked by the Democratic hierarchy to run against Hatch. Moss hopes he can defeat Cwik in the Democratic state convention this June.
"A primary (election) would put off the real race. It hurts one's ability to gain support, both from the people and financially," Moss says. He said he plans to attend every county Democratic convention "and talk to every state delegate I can" in an effort to eliminate Cwik in the convention and bypass a primary fight.