Democrat Gunn McKay said Thursday that if he had not been unseated from Congress, he could stop NASA plans to phase out space shuttle booster business from Morton Thiokol's Wasatch Operations in Brigham City.
"If I had been there with the same power base that I had before, it is very likely I could have had an effect," he said as he announced his new campaign staff.With that, McKay also set what is expected to be a major theme of his campaign that the 1st Congressional District needs a member of the Democratic majority to protect its interests in Washington.
McKay, who was elected to five terms in Congress between 1970 and 1980, is trying to regain his seat from the man who defeated him, three-term incumbent Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah.
McKay said that if he were still in Congress and on a major appropriations committee and a committee chairman as in the past, he is confident he could stop the NASA plans against Morton-Thiokol.
"I could talk to people whom I had done favors for, and those who had done favors for me, and we could work something out."
He said NASA plans to move shuttle booster construction to Alabama could be cemented by the time the November election comes. But if elected, he said he "could reduce any further loss in those areas."
He said he could help gain new missions for Hill Air Force Base to replace the F-4 fighter plane program, which he feels may soon wind down. He said he successfully fought for various water and power programs for the district before, and saved the Intermountain Inter-Tribal School in Brigham City for 10 years.
McKay claimed that Hansen, as a member of the minority Republican Party, does not have such power. "When I'm in Washington and I tell my old colleagues who I am running against they say, `Who's that?' Then they think for awhile and say, `Oh yes, I think I know who he is.
"You can't have that kind of relationship with members of Congress and expect to get things done," McKay said.
Dr. Quinn McKay, Gunn's brother and campaign chairman even though he is a Republican hopes such arguments will persuade other Republicans to also support Gunn and become what he calls "RepubliGunns."
He said the campaign will also be designed to show that any district resident can feel comfortable voting for McKay because of his integrity and devotion to traditional values such as strong families.
A recent Deseret News/KSL poll shows McKay would need the support of many Republicans to win because 46 percent of the voters in the district say they are Republicans, only 18 percent are Democrats and the rest are independents. Still, McKay lost to Hansen by only 3 percent two years ago.
Russell R. Clark, McKay's campaign manager, said he feels both McKay and Hansen have large groups that solidly favor them about 45 or 46 percent of the electorate for each. He said the two candidates will spend most of their time fighting for the remaining 8 to 10 percent undecided vote.
He said the campaigns of McKay and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson plan to call most homes in the district to determine how they feel about a variety of issues and the candidates. Specially targeted literature may then be sent to those groups.
Clark said McKay's campaign also has roughly a $400,000 campaign, and most the money will be spent on television ads.