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The Democrat and Republican challengers for Salt Lake County Commissioner Bart Barker's seat made an unusual joint appearance Tuesday to pitch their common objective on the Salt Palace.

Democrat Jim Bradley and Republican Henry Hilton disagree about whether the Salt Palace should be turned over to a private manager and about whether the facility should be renovated and expanded, Bradley said, but they do agree they want Barker out of the picture."We want absolutely no influence from Bart Barker in choosing that management team," Bradley said. "We don't want to have to live with any more of his mistakes," Hilton added.

The unlikely duo has accused Barker of making the Salt Palace a victim of election-year politics. Barker, responding from Miami where he and other county officials are attending a National Association of Counties convention, characterized the press conference as part of the "constant barrage of negative campaigning and unfounded accusations."

County officials have already solicited management proposals and are in the advanced stages of selecting a private Salt Palace management contractor. A specially appointed selection committee has plans to interview three hopeful management finalists July 25. The County Commission could award the contract soon after that.

In Tuesday's joint appearance, Hilton and Bradley said they want Barker to either remove himself and his political appointees from the decisionmaking process on Salt Palace management or postpone a decision on private management until after the November election - an idea introduced in May by commission candidate Randy Horiuchi, the Democrat running against incumbent Tom Shimizu.

Hilton would rather see the decision on whether to issue a private contract postponed until after November. Bradley believes the selection committee should finish its work, but without three individuals he believes are under Barker's thumb - county Administrative Services Director Larry Meyer, Salt Palace and Fine Arts Division Director John Rosenthal and Commission Staff Manager Kerry Steadman.

Bradley said he has discussed his feelings about the proposed Salt Palace management shift with the Salt Palace and Fine Arts Advisory Board, which will advise the County Commission on the selection made for a management team. Ironically, one of people he mentioned by name is not a member of the board.

Bradley said he sent a telegram to Barker in Miami just before the press conference to add a little levity to the campaign. "Tried to wait for your return. Our campaigns must go on," the telegram reads. "I personally don't want to revolve my campaign schedule around Bart Barker's schedule," Bradley said.

But Bradley is campaigning around Barker's schedule, Barker believes. "Bradley has said nothing for the last month and then held two press conferences while I've been out of town," Barker said. Bradley also held a press conference Sunday in Mill Creek Canyon where he criticized Barker's stand against a proposal to collect an entrance fee for canyon maintenance.

Barker said the county has solicited bids for a Salt Palace contract and would not demonstrate good faith by telling the bidders now the process would be delayed - for political reasons. Responding to Bradley and Hilton's request that he and his appointees step out of the process, Barker said that would change the composition of the selection committee, which unsuccessful contract bidders could consider an unfair irregularity. "Besides, it would take out people who know the most about the process and who would ask the tough questions" of potential bidders.

Issuing a private-management contract for the Salt Palace is not a political decision, Barker said. "The only thing political is their attempt to delay it until the election, which would be disastrous."