Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah met his Democratic challenger, Brian Moss, over the airwaves Tuesday night for their first campaign debate.
During the debate, broadcast on KALL Radio's "Vital Issues," a confident Hatch skirted his Democratic opponent's challenge to do as Moss has done: Release his 1987 tax return and State Department security check "for the scrutiny of the people of Utah," and take a stand on the tax initiatives - an issue Hatch has successfully avoided during the campaign.The Democratic senatorial candidate, who in March voiced his opposition to the initiatives, said he's been awaiting his opponent's position ever since.
Judging from the debate, he'll have to wait longer. Hatch, who leads Moss by 43 percentage points, stopped short of revealing how he'll vote on the initiatives in November.
"I am concerned that the tax initiatives will go too far," Hatch said."I am a tax cutter, and I really believe that our people are overtaxed throughout the country.
"I believe that property taxes ought to be capped, that income taxes need to be kept within levels that people can afford, and that Utah state government is not immune from wasteful practices anymore than any other large organization - although it is certainly more efficient than most state entities or any governmental entity."
Hatch called Gov. Norm Bangerter's new program to freeze and reform taxes "a step in the right direction," and dropped the issue with this comment.
"By the way, Brian, I have made a policy as a member of the U.S. Senate, on purely state issues, I don't tell people how to vote. I think that might be a very wise thing for you do to as well," Hatch counseled. "I think people are old enough to make their own decisions on these matters and if they want to vote for these initiatives, they can."
As evidenced by Tuesday's debate, conducted with Moss in the radio station studio and Hatch speaking by telephone from Washington, the two candidates agree on at least one issue: The Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment and the need to attack overall spending. They disagree, however, on the best way to do it.
Moss, who tagged himself "a poor struggling candidate trying to survive in this very rough atmosphere," was critical of Hatch's attempt "to block civil rights legislation," to take more credit than he deserved for saving Geneva Steel, and for not owning a home in Utah.
Hatch, who repudiated the criticism, said he owns a number of properties in Utah, including a home in Midvale, a condominium in Salt Lake City, and half interest in a home in Ogden.
The senator, seeking a third term, expressed pride in his accomplishments, calling himself "an advocate of fiscal responsibility and a strong federal defense."
"But the most rewarding work I do is to help Utahns solve problems," he said.
A big difference expressed by the opponents was about the Democratic Party.
Moss touts his party as "the party that has always accepted those people who are out of the mainstream . . . the party that's responsive to those people who are trying to access their civil rights in this government."
He reiterated his resentment over Hatch's controversial comment earlier in the campaign that the Democratic Party is the party of homosexuals.
Former Democrat Hatch, who'd like the issue dead and buried, continued to insist his comments were taken out of context.
"My remarks were inarticulate, but however inarticulate were meant to criticize an extreme agenda and not individuals within the Democratic Party," he said. "I have continuously seen among leaders of the Democratic Party a catering to many of these left radical groups, including the radical homosexuals."
Hatch, co-author with Sen. Ted Kennedy of the Senate AIDS bill, said he wants homosexuals treated fairly.
But he opposes allowing homosexuals to be legally married, adopt children, or be foster parents.
"They want full recognition and endorsement of homosexuality under law, and they want every right that religious institutions grant under the Constitution today," he said. "I am not for those things."