Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, accused Republican challenger Richard Snelgrove of distorting his record in Congress in recent advertising during the first debate between the two candidates.
Owens used the last few minutes of his presentation to the Salt Lake Rotary Club on Tuesday to criticize Snelgrove for information contained in recent campaign advertising."Whoever did this is either totally naive, totally ignorant of the facts or totally uncaring of the truth," Owens said, waving a brochure he said is full of inaccuracies.
Snelgrove at first did not respond to Owens' comments. Instead, he talked about a meeting he had earlier in the day with Secretary of State George Schultz, who was in Salt Lake City to address members of the Inter American Press Association.
The ice cream company executive said he and the secretary of state discussed the jellybean-flavored ice cream he had made for President Reagan. Schultz hadn't gotten to taste any, Snelgrove said, so he promised to whip up a batch of the cabinet member's personal favorite flavor of ice cream, banana.
Then Snelgrove went on to describe the differences he saw between himself and Owens, who is seeking his third term in Congress after being elected first in 1972 and again in 1986.
In doing so, Snelgrove repeated some of the statements that angered Owens, including the congressman's plans for putting wolves in Yellowstone National Park and creating a bird refuge on Utah Lake.
He said that unlike Owens, he would concentrate his efforts on improving the economy in the 2nd District, establishing help for small and minority-owned businesses, recruiting new industry and opposing additional taxes.
Snelgrove said Salt Lake City can no longer afford to have an "at-large congressman" who crusaded against issues important to the 2nd District, a reference to Owens' opposition to the C-17 military aircraft approved by Congress.
The congressman countered that he had opposed the plane despite the number of jobs it would have meant to Salt Lake City because it was a "white elephant" not needed for the nation's defense.
Owens said he will continue to stand up against spending federal money in Salt Lake County if those expenditures are not in the best national interest. "If it's bad for the United States, then it's bad for Salt Lake County."
He pledged to be a congressman "who works for the benefit of the people of Salt Lake County and a sound national policy, wherever that may take me."
Owens, too, stressed the need for economic development in Salt Lake County and said he has already contributed to the effort. He cited his support for the Central Utah Project and for federal money to study the area's mass transportation needs.
Following the debate, Owens said it was his first opportunity to respond to Snelgrove's statements. Snelgrove said he stands by everything in his campaign materials.
The Owens campaign distributed to reporters a statement refuting Snelgrove campaign advertisements.