How does a conservative Republican from Spanish Fork justify a vote for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson to his conservative Republican friends?

That question, asked by a self-styled right-wing Republican, was one of a dozen Wilson answered Tuesday during an appearance before the Spanish Fork Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club and Chamber of Commerce.The same groups will hear from Gov. Norm Bangerter, Wilson's probable Republican opponent in November, during a luncheon next month.

Wilson, venturing into an area of the state where he's never been known to show political strength, gave a short campaign speech and then took all questions.

The group's political leanings were admittedly so Republican that there were jokes made about the attendance of a local Rotarian - the Spanish Fork club's so-called "token Democrat."

The questions - about Wilson's stance on taxes, the environment, education and other issues - were hard, prompting the former Salt Lake mayor at one point to praise his questioners, saying, "You guys are tough. This is wonderful."

But the most intriguing question was one many Republicans across the state may be asking themselves.

"As a right-wing Republican who's probably going to vote for you, how can I justify that vote to my Republican friends?" one questioner asked Wilson.

Wilson replied that the national Democratic Party's liberal positions on sensitive issues like gay rights and abortion don't brand Utah Demos like they once did in the 1970s.

"I'm a Democrat, but I was born and raised in Utah just like you," Wilson said. "On many issues I'm going to be just as concerned and just as conservative as you."

Wilson's replies to other questions included:

-On the tax rollback initiative: "I sympathize with those who've signed the petitions. But the loss of $343 million would be very destructive. We have to be clearer-headed than that.

"The cuts won't just be at the state level. They'll affect your local water districts that bring water to many areas of the state. They'll affect your sanitation districts and your local libraries."

-On whether his pledge not to raise taxes would be swept aside two years into a Wilson administration, as a similar pledge was by Bangerter: "Norm said he wouldn't raise taxes for two years. Then he gave us a Guinness Book of World Records tax increase. Now you're overtaxed, so he's going to give some of that money back for the election.

"When I say I won't raise taxes, I mean it. I wouldn't say it if I wasn't optimistic about the future of our economy. Now is the time to invest in Utah. Now is the time to stay, not move to California."

-On whether he would have raised taxes last year if he were in Bangerter's position at the time: "I would have done the same thing he did, to be honest with you. By 1987 there wasn't anything else that could be done.

"He had to raise taxes just to keep up with the growth in new students coming into our schools. But the governor created that scenario for himself by not getting the economy moving."

-On his position on the designation of more Utah land as wilderness area: "I support the principal of multiple use. It has to be applied to the vast majority of our lands so we can extract minerals and get other benefits for our people.

"I support more wilderness, but not 5 million acres. I think we have to look at it piece by piece to make sure we're not locking up valuable land."