Congressional candidate Gunn McKay has charged incumbent Jim Hansen with breaking his word by backing out of three debates, while Hansen's campaign staff claims their candidate never agreed to the meetings.
"There was a time when you could take a man at his word and you didn't need a Philadelphia contract," McKay said.McKay said Hansen verbally agreed to two televised debates, one staged at Southern Utah State College to be aired on KUED on Oct. 5, another on KBYU-TV on Oct. 25 and another in Logan. McKay said Hansen pulled out because television debates make him look bad.
"We did not back out of the debate in Cedar City. Jim's going to be in Washington to vote. The other debates never fit into our schedule," Hansen campaign manager Peter Jenks said.
Both candidates will make five joint appearances beginning Oct. 20. Three will be on television.
Hansen, a Farmington Republican has held the 1st Congressional seat for four terms, and McKay, a Huntsville Democrat who had the seat for five terms, have only appeared together once this year at the Bountiful Area Chamber of Commerce.
Jenks said that McKay doesn't know what he is talking about when he said Hansen was a poor debater. Jenks said media debates in close elections in 1980 and 1986 gave Hansen the edge in the race.
"If he is a better debater why did he cancel three debates? If Jim Hansen does better in debates why won't he be in Cedar City?. Why won't he debate in Provo? Gunn McKay is an excellent debater," McKay spokesman David Dixon said, "He addresses Utah issues and will expose Hansen's failed record."
Jenks said the debates will show McKay as a budget-busting liberal who is lock-step with Congress' Democratic majority.
Jenks said he believes that McKay made the charges about the debate cancellations last week to a fund-raising dinner without checking the facts and now staff members are trying to cover his heels. Jenks maintains debate invitations had been received, but were never agreed to.
"Frankly I think McKay got the wrong information from his staff. Gunn said something off the cuff and got trapped," Jenks said. "None of this is in writing. There is no legal documentation."
McKay said he hopes Hansen keeps his word on the scheduled debates. In past elections, the two have scheduled appearances where Hansen didn't show up and sent what Dixon called "one of Hansen's henchmen to beat up on Gunn."
"If Jim's not coming, we're not coming," McKay said.
Debates are scheduled Thursday, Oct. 20, with the Ogden Chamber of Commerce; Friday, Oct. 21, for a taping of KSL-TV Roundtable (the program airs Oct. 22); Sunday, Oct. 30, on KUTV's Take Two; Monday, Oct. 31, on KUED and Tuesday, Nov. 1, on KALL Radio.