If it's not one thing it's another for Rep. Jim Hansen.
His friends call him an environmentalist. Hansen, who represents the 1st Congressional district, is Mr. Outdoors in the eyes of his family - there were no trips to the city for the Hansen clan early on, only fishing in Utah lakes and hunting, camping and hiking on the state's mountains.But Hansen's pro-ranching and pro-mining stance and years spent battling environmental groups about how much of Utah to designate as wilderness have tarnished the congressman's green image.
He's also spent years fighting chronic downsizing at Hill Air Force Base.
Monday, the U.S. General Accounting Office raised questions about a recent Air Force decision to give Hill and Boeing a $1.1 billion contract to take work done at a California base that is closing.
And now when the congressman, who is running for a state-record 10th consecutive term,
believes he's doing the best job ever, his Democratic opponent, stockbroker Steve Beierlein, says Hansen is out of touch.
Nearly 18 years. Have you been there too long? "That's always a good argument," Hansen says.
Are you out of touch with the people of Utah? "I have a hard time buying the out-of-touch argument."
Hansen was born in Salt Lake City. He attended the University of Utah, earning a bachelor's degree between serving in the Navy during the Korean War and serving a mission for the LDS Church. He married Anne Burgoyne in 1957 and moved to Farmington shortly thereafter.
He was in the insurance and land-development business before politics took over his life full time.
Then, he says, he "pioneered" the tradition of flying home to Utah on weekends.
He puts miles on his car in trips from his home in Farmington to St. George, Tooele, Cedar City and other spots of interest in his far-reaching district.
He teaches a Sunday School class when he's home.
"I'm not one of those bound in by the Potomac fever," he said.
So when someone asks if he's been in politics too long, Hansen doesn't think duration is the issue. What's more important is what he's been able to do for people; and he's done a good job for Utahns and Americans by his own estimation.
"Balancing the budget for the first time in 40 years is a phenomenal thing for America."
He is also proud of his efforts to win back business for northern Utah's Hill Air Force Base and ease the transition as federal property at the now closed Defense Depot Ogden crosses into the public sector.
He is on constant alert for advancing attacks from environmental groups. "A few of our extreme . . . groups want to drain Lake Powell and some other things like this. That can't happen," he said. "Somehow we have to get hold of this wilderness thing."
He bristles at the criticism that he has been in office too long and that he has focused on federal rather than Utah issues. "Military and public lands - both of those are pretty local issues."
And those who don't think they are should wake up. "If we should lose Hill (Air Force Base), we'd have a depression from Ogden to Spanish Fork and then some."
Hansen does believe in term limitations but wants to see it applied evenly in all 50 states. Still, "a guy who has been here a long time can do more in an hour than a new guy can do in two months."
Regardless, when he stops addressing Utah issues, "they should throw me out," he says.
He does admit to being exhausted by some parts of Washington's cutthroat political climate.
"It's slime back here."
There are continual whisper campaigns. People tell on each other and Hansen, chairman of the House Ethics Committee, has to chase down the "fallacious" rumors. "The vast majority of things we hear are made up," he said. "I'm a little tired of it."
Hansen himself has been the target at times, although he won't repeat the rumors.
"It's always something. Maybe I kicked my dog one time or whatever it might be. Somebody is always saying something. You're on drugs or on the take or one thing or another."
As the campaign kicks into high gear, Hansen is trying to focus on issues.
He wants to lay to rest the problem at Hill Air Force Base. "I want to put Hill in a good position. To me that's critical."
And, as chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Lands, he will continue to work water, power and lands issues in Utah's best interest.
And since nearly three decades ago, when Hansen first ran for the Farmington City Council on a relatively minor water issue, he has never lost an election, including those for the Utah House (where he served as speaker) and for Congress.
Most of his congressional races weren't even close, although former Democratic Rep. Gunn McKay came close to unseating Hansen in 1986 and former Wayne Owens' aide Kenley Brunsdale made the 1990 1st District race a squeaker.
In 1992 Hansen came close to leaving the House. He seriously considered running for the open governor's seat or the open U.S. Senate seat that year.
Republicans looking for an in into the 1st District hoped he would pick another race. Others hoping to see Hansen leave the political scene wanted him in the governor or Senate race, believing he couldn't win the GOP nomination and so would be retired.
Hansen decided to stay where he was, ran for the 1st District again and won.
He has weathered much speculation about his temperament through the years. He has often refused to talk to reporters and has been accused of having a confrontational, arrogant attitude.
But family members say there is a softer - and helpful - side. He loves to putter and fix things. He loves spending time with five children and six grandchildren. And, Hansen says, "I'm a known quantity."
A profile of Beierlein was published yesterday.
Starting Monday: Utah County and Davis County commission candidates.