First Congressional District candidate Gunn McKay attempted to distance himself from Michael Dukakis' proposed defense spending cuts, while incumbent Jim Hansen defended his ability to bring defense contracts into the state during the candidates' first debate Thursday.
Debating before the Ogden Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton Hotel, Hansen linked McKay with Dukakis' positions including his proposed defense cuts for the MX missile and small ICBM. Components of both systems are produced in Utah."That means 5,200 direct jobs, 7,000 periphery jobs and $100 million coming into the state of Utah (would be cut)," Hansen, a Farmington Republican, said.
McKay, a Huntsville Democrat, said he supported a strong defense during his 10 years in Congress. He said he would continue to support existing military contracts in the state.
"Sometimes I think my opponent is running against Michael Dukakis," McKay said. "I am a strong defense man. I am not willing to cut, but we may have to level off on the growth rate."
McKay said that Hansen has lost military contracts for the state during his eight years in office. Quoting fiscal year 1988 figures, he said that Reagan proposed $87 million in military spending for Utah, but Hansen failed to keep $34 million of that during House appropriations.
"I think somebody is not reading the statistics. For the eight years that I have been in Congress we have brought into the military in this area $350 million versus the $100 million for the 10 years prior to that. That's more than our share," Hansen said.
Hansen also said that plans to move space shuttle booster production from Utah to a proposed government-owned plant in Mississippi are prompted by "payoffs" in the liberal majority, but will be stopped.
McKay charged Hansen with supporting the "biggest spending spree in history" by increasing budget deficits.
"He has either been ineffective or he has been part of the problem," McKay said. "If his votes would have counted on the additional spending that the Republican Party put through in the last two years, you would had another $14 billion in debt. You have got to control the trade deficit. You have got to control the spending where you can," McKay said.,
He also attacked Hansen for not endorsing more federal support of Utah's education system, not supporting the Social Security program and telling voters he supported a 65 mph speed limit measure when he voted against it after Reagan vetoed it.
Hansen chided McKay for his support of right-to-work, minimum wage, catastrophic health care and government contract wage control laws. He said such laws hurt small-business people and specifically, the minimum wage law would hinder teenagers from getting jobs.
Hansen criticized McKay for wavering on a debate question about the repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act that places wage standards on federal contractors.
"The Davis-Bacon Act is out of date and is costing the American public billions of dollars a year," Hansen said after asking the moderator if he could yield his time to have McKay answer the question. McKay said any repeal would be looked at with economic conditions of the state in mind.
Both candidates said they support the balanced budget amendment, line-item veto, child care, no gun control and the intent of the recent Civil Rights Restoration Act.
The gun control issue served as fodder for quips from both candidates.
"I am Gunn and the only place I want to be registered is for Congress," said McKay.
Hansen responded, "I think we should control a Gunn that I know."