Despite a healthy lead in the polls, Democratic nominee for governor Ted Wilson felt the need to go on the defensive Wednesday, attacking a new Republican Party radio ad he called "bombastic" and "distorted."
"Although I've never run a defensive campaign, I am a little disturbed by the campaign ads" sponsored by the Utah Republican Party, Wilson said in a speech before the Bonneville Kiwanis Club at a downtown hotel.Wilson's lead in the polls over Gov. Norm Bangerter has widened recently. A Deseret News/KSL-TV poll put Wilson 23 points ahead of the incumbent governor, a two point gain over a June poll.
Republican Party leaders said the ad, released in 30-second spots Tuesday, is designed to discount an effort on Wilson's part to take credit for prosperity, for which they say he is not responsible.
"Ted was trying to create a public image . . . that he has done a lot of things without encountering any problems," said Republican Party Chairman Craig Moody.
The party's executive director, Greg Hopkins, said the ad is being
aired "to smoke him (Wilson) out a bit."
"If he's more willing to come out and talk about his record, then I think we've accomplished something," he said, relishing that Wilson has taken to the hustings to defend himself against the ad.
The ad paints Wilson as a quitter for leaving City Hall mid-term after serving as mayor for 10 years. It also attacks Wilson for unionizing the city's police force and blames him for city's downtown area decline.
But Wilson called the ads "bombastic" and the most negative tactic used so far in the race for the state house.
"When I see an ad like that I just have to respond," Wilson said. "Here we have a radio ad that is such a total distortion, it amazes me that we're starting that kind of negative campaign in July. I think that ad is a direct reflection of the (Republican's) frustration with this last poll."
Wilson acknowledged leaving the mayor's office mid-term but said, "I did that only after creating 40,000 jobs and tripling land values."
He also said the city's police department had been unionized for 22 years, contrary to assertions in the ad. In response to claims in the ads that he contributed to downtown erosion, Wilson said much of the area was already in decline and that he helped to "revitalize" the city's center.
Wilson did not respond to charges in the ad that he increased the mayor's salary 108 percent while he was in office.
Comparing his record at City Hall with Bangerter's as governor, Wilson highlighted Salt Lake City's ability to withstand revenue losses. From 1980 to 1985, city revenue went from $88 million to $78 million, a decline of 10.5 percent, he said.
"It is a record of budget cutting superior to the state of Utah during the past four years, and one I am very proud of," he said.
Neither Hopkins nor Moody would provide an exact cost of the ad, but Hopkins said it was under $5,000. The ad will air over four radio stations throughout the week, Hopkins said.
Wilson said he isn't accusing Bangerter of running the ad, but he said he felt the governor had sanctioned it. Moody said that was only an assumption on Wilson's part.
"We don't sit down and consult with the governor," Moody said.
Wilson also used the speech to attack the tax cut measure passed Tuesday by the Utah Legislature as a means of buying votes.
Although he supports a rebate of surplus tax dollars, Wilson opposed the permanent income tax reduction. "Let's wait until we know what the true revenues are in January," he said.