After losing ground in recent polls, Democratic congressional candidate Gunn McKay decided to take off the gloves Wednesday with a tough radio ad attacking Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, for missing an important vote in order to vacation in Utah.
The ad said Father's Day this week reminded residents of the need to take care of their parents in their old age. But when a vote came up recently to safeguard senior citizens from catastrophic health care costs, Hansen "didn't even care enough to show up."The ad said he took a two-week vacation instead to campaign in Utah.
McKay said at a press conference in Bountiful that the ad is not negative campaigning, although he expects Hansen to say it is. "But Jim always says we are running a negative campaign. . . . whenever we give the voters an opportunity to examine the record, Jim says we're out of line."
McKay accused Hansen of being the one who has been doing the real negative campaigning. "I've been told he takes shots at my age, which is ludicrous since he supported the oldest presidential candidate in history."
McKay said, "In this campaign, we are going to focus on leadership and the issues. In this campaign, we are going to take an aggressive look at my opponent's record."
Campaign staffers for McKay said the ad simply does what Hansen has urged the public to do all along - look at his record. They said the ad doesn't attack Hansen personally, just his record.
Although McKay said the new tough ad has nothing to do with his recent slip in the polls, it comes after a Deseret News/KSL poll released Sunday shows Hansen now leads McKay by a 51-40 percent margin. When the political season began, polls showed the two virtually even - but Hansen has gained a few points in each poll since then.
Hansen has said his growing lead in the polls has made it easier for him to raise money. Democrats have said they want to prevent Hansen from coming up with an early knock-out punch in the battle for campaign funds.
McKay and Hansen both have said they expect a tough, close battle in the election. Hansen, who is seeking his fifth term, beat McKay two years ago by just 3 percentage points. McKay - a former five-term congressman - was unseated by Hansen in 1980.