SALT LAKE CITY — It didn't take long for the campaigning to get down and dirty after Democrat Doug Owens announced Tuesday he is making another run for the 4th District seat in Congress held by Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah.
"This time, it will be different," said Dave Hansen, Love's campaign adviser. "We will probably run a more aggressive campaign, depending on what he does. I think some of his positions and some of his past may need to be brought out."
Hansen was unwilling to elaborate on what that might entail.
His tough talk came after Owens announced in an email and a Facebook post that he was running again in 2016 after losing to Love last year in a hard-fought race to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.
Owens, the son of the late Utah Rep. Wayne Owens, said he is running "because I believe we deserve a representative who puts Utah first." His post noted his pioneer ancestors, as well as his father's time in politics.
"I learned from watching my father's career in public service that listening is more important than talking and that you always answer to the people you represent — not a political party or special interests in Washington," Owens said.
Owens was not available Tuesday for interviews about his announcement. He had been talking about a rematch with the former Saratoga Springs mayor since coming within four points of a win in 2014.
"The timing is a little curious," University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said, especially since Owens did not follow up his posts with interviews. "It doesn't seem like it's well-planned from the kicking off the campaign perspective."
Burbank was also taken aback by Hansen's threat of a negative campaign.
"That's not what I would have expected him to say. It is a little surprising given the dynamic this time around," he said, since Love is now an incumbent seeking re-election. "It does seem like an odd tone."
Another U. political science professor, Tim Chambless, labeled Hansen's strong words as a "pre-emptive strike" in the campaign. Chambless, affiliated with the U.'s Hinckley Institute of Politics, said he expects the race to be close.
"She's going to have a record to defend," he said. "We'll see. So far, she has not misstepped. She has not said something or done something that has been out of the ordinary."
As a newcomer to Congress, Love has focused on learning the job, not making speeches and television appearances as the first black Republican woman in Congress, Burbank said.
"I think that will work just fine for her," he said. "There haven't been any mistakes. There haven't been any big problems."
Love attracted national attention when she first challenged Matheson in 2012. Matheson, the last Democrat to represent Utah in Congress, was narrowly re-elected then to a seventh term.
Because Matheson's decision not to run again didn't come until less than a year before the election, Owens got a late start last time, Chambless said, something he obviously wants to avoid.
By declaring his candidacy, Owens will not only be able to raise money, he'll also be able to campaign in the district while Love is in Washington, D.C., potentially a big advantage, Chambless said.
Love filed for re-election on July 16 with the Federal Election Commission and reported raising more than $515,000 in the second quarter of the year for a total of more than $1.1 million so far this election cycle.
Her contributions include money from a number of political action committees associated with banking interests. Love is a member of the House Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the banking industry.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon said what he called a "flood of PAC money flowing into Rep. Love's campaign is troubling" and that her appointment to the committee "has benefited her campaign war chest."
Hansen said the same people criticizing Love for accepting the contributions supported Matheson, who also received plenty of money from political action committees over the years.
"That's just kind of a natural progression in fundraising," Hansen said, when candidates move from being a challenger to an incumbent. "That's the way the process operates."
He said donors "like the job she's doing on financial services and make contributions to ensure she stays there." Her priority, Hansen said, continues to be representing the 4th District, when extends from Salt Lake County's west side to Sanpete County.
Corroon said he's excited Owens has decided to run because he "prioritizes the issues Utahns care about — education, pro-business reform, health care and the idea of giving a person a hand up when he's down, not a hand out."
The Democratic leader said he believes that if voters "take the time to get to know the issues and the candidates, they'll realize Doug Owens is overwhelmingly the right choice."
But Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said the likelihood that the Democratic nominee for president will be Hillary Clinton will hurt Owens. Former President Bill Clinton, her husband, finished third in Utah in 1992.
"I am confident that when the dust settles in November, not only will Congresswoman Love be re-elected, but she will be re-elected with a signficantly larger majority," Evans said.
Love spent more than $5 million to defeat Owens in 2014. She claimed throughout the race he ran a negative campaign that distorted statements she had made in her 2012 race about eliminating the U.S. Department of Education and other issues.
As Owens rose in the polls, Love launched a TV commercial late in the race that featured President Barack Obama and told voters, "We can do better than the policies of Obama and his Democrat candidates."
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