Independent gubernatorial candidate Merrill Cook says the state's new $300,000 "Utah Pride" advertising campaign is aimed more at re-electing Gov. Norm Bangerter than improving the state's economy.

Cook said money for the in-state campaign, which uses the slogan "Utah: A pretty, great state," should spend money instead to attract more tourists or businesses to the state."People who have been taking part in the campaign have told us they felt that it is more to make people to forget about the sluggish economy here than it is to get new businesses to come in," he said. "That only benefits the present office holder."

Cook added, "I'm all for putting smiles on the faces of Utahns. But I feel that should be done by real economic improvement, not just from hype."

Cook said the campaign's timing is especially ironic because it comes as state social services officials said they don't have enough money to conduct more detailed audits to prevent such abuses as the $3.5 million found misused over four years at the Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center.

"I feel the timing and focus are ill-serving Utah," Cook said. "For example, 5 million people come through the five counties in southern Utah every year. But there should be more than that, and they should stay longer and spend more money. We should be trying to promote that."

Cook said he first attacked the state-financed ad campaign as he was campaigning last week in Richfield, in an area that depends largely on tourism to boost its economy.

"The idea of promoting Utah is good as long as we promote it to tourists living out of state or people who might bring business here. We need to spend more money to improve facilities such as rest stops on the highway and other facilities especially around national parks," he said.