Republican Rep. Jim Hansen's campaign says the television advertisements of Democrat rival Gunn McKay pointing out inconsistencies in Hansen's support of the 65 mph speed limit law are a "blatant distortion." Washington sources, however, say McKay has the facts straight.
For the past two weeks Hansen has been running television ads that say he led the fight for a 65 mph speed limit. McKay, borrowing a clip of that ad, began airing his own ad questioning Hansen's record. The ad contends that in March 1987 Hansen voted for the 65 mph speed limit bill and then opposed the same legislation after President Reagan vetoed it.This week Hansen campaign manager Peter Jenks mailed a press release saying McKay had perpetrated "the most blatant distortion of a Congressman's voting record in the 1988 campaign."
Hansen of Farmington and McKay of Huntsville are running for the 1st Congressional District seat. Hansen unseated McKay eight years ago after McKay had been in the office 10 years.
Jenks said Hansen changed his vote on the highway funding measure that included the 65 mph admendment because "pork barrel" projects had been added after it passed the House of Representatives. Those additions by House and Senate conferees included funding a $5 billion Boston Harbor tunnel in then House Speaker Tip O'Neill's district. The compromise legislation also contained an altered highway formula that cost Utah $14 million, Jenks said.
Kathy Gallegos, Hansen's congressional press secretary, said Wednesday that Hansen indeed voted for the additions, but did so knowing that Reagan would veto the bill.
Gallegos' statement was a change in position from earlier releases issued by the campaign staff. Gallegos said the congressman supported the presidential veto because Reagan called him. Reagan said if the veto was sustained a compromise bill would likely result in the elimination of some of the "pork barrel" projects and preserve the 65 mph amendment, she said.
"If Jim thought he could get out the pork, he voted the right way," Gallegos said. She cited a recent defense authorization bill that was vetoed. A compromise bill resulted in a better deal for Utah, she said.
Jenks also said that even if the president's veto had been upheld, the 65 mph amendment would have been preserved. But because the president doesn't have a line-item veto such is impossible unless the 65 mph amendment could have been reintroduced separately or attached to another bill.
Taylor Bowlden, on the staff of Sen. Steve Symms, R-Idaho, confirmed that Boston Harbor tunnel funding was in the compromise report Hansen voted for. Symms, a Reagan Republican and a key Senate sponsor of the 65 mph speed limit legislation, also voted for the conference report, but voted to override the veto. Bowlden said that Symms, in a rare departure from a Reagan position, supported the override because of the 65 mph provision and because he thought the president was wrong.
Bowlden said he doesn't believe Hansen's vote meant he wavered in his support for the speed limit change.
"It (his vote) certainly wasn't because of the 65 mph speed limit. Jim Hansen truly was a leader on the House side on the speed limit. There are a lot of people who take credit for it, but Jim Hansen was truly a leader," Bowlden said.
McKay press aide Dave Dixon said if Reagan hadn't vetoed the bill Hansen would have been on the record supporting the same "pork barrel" funding he is now criticizing. He said the Hansen campaign has attempted to deceive the press and the public.
"This is a perfect example of Jim taking credit for something he didn't do." Dixon said. "He has got a perfect record. He voted `yes' and he voted `no.' He could be running ads saying the bill is terrible and ads saying the bill is great. When it came down to the final analysis he voted against his own bill and now he is trying to take credit for it . . . . What kind of Congressman is that?"