Former Gov. J. Bracken Lee has called on supporters of independent gubernatorial candidate Merrill Cook to support the candidacy of Gov. Norm Bangerter, saying "a vote for Merrill Cook is actually a vote for Ted Wilson."
The endorsement came Tuesday despite the fact Lee says Bangerter was misled on the tax increases of 1987 and that Lee will continue to be an active supporter of the tax initiatives, which Bangerter opposes."I signed the petitions and I will vote for them," he said. "Prosperity comes from money in the hands of the people."
While it may be no surprise that a former Republican governor would endorse a Republican candidate for governor, it is ironic Lee would support Bangerter over Merrill Cook. Lee ran as an independent candidate twice and lost both times, despite garnering 30 percent of the vote and opening the door for a Democrat to win the election.
"Merrill Cook is making a big mistake by running for governor as an independent," said Lee, now in his 90s. "When you get right down to it, all Merrill can accomplish is ensuring the election of Ted Wilson."
Still, Lee, who was elected as a Republican in 1948 and 1952, said he is not sorry he ran as an independent candidate because he thought he had a serious chance of winning, as well as a political statement to make. The Democrat was a better leader than the Republican anyway, he said.
"But Ted Wilson is not a leader," Lee said. "He does anything the Democratic Party chairman tells him to. I don't trust the Democratic Party anymore."
In a letter to voters, Lee said he supports Bangerter because of his integrity and honesty.
"That doesn't mean I totally agree with everything he has done. But one thing that impresses me about Norm above all else - he is a man of total integrity, honesty and ability. We don't see many honest politicians these days. Norm has had the courage to stand up and be counted."
Lee said Bangerter represents the constitutional principles of individual and state freedoms that made America a great nation. That is in contrast to the majority of Democrats, whom Lee called socialists, and liberals, whom Lee said "have deliberately set out to turn this country into a dictatorship."
In response to Lee's endorsement of Bangerter, Cook openly admitted shared views on taxation, but added they don't share many other views.
"But J. Bracken Lee would have Utah move backwards toward the 19th century," Cook said. "My policies are designed to move Utah forward into the 21st century. I'm a moderate, down-the-middle kind of guy that just wants tax relief.
"He would move us backwards. I would move us forward. I still believe in public schools. He doesn't. I believe in the reality of the income tax. He thinks it is wrong."