As a political consultant, I have had the opportunity of getting to know politicians, Republicans and Democrats, intimately. It has been fascinating getting to know the real Merrill Cook. When my firm took on Cook, we took a lot of partisan flak for our decision. Now that I have seen him up close and personal, I am convinced that it was the right thing.

Once, in a planning meeting, Merrill pulled me aside and said, "I want you to know that I really will do my best to represent Utah. I care about this state. I really mean that." He was sincere and the first candidate I have ever had do that. I have been a fan of his ever since.Why does Cook keep running? I used to think it was for his ego - until I saw the daily attacks both he and his family endure. I am convinced that Cook runs because he cares.

It intrigues me how many influential party people respect and support Cook, yet on the surface make made-for-TV comments like Democratic Executive Director Todd Taylor's, "Merrill Cook is a dolt." I find such infantile name-calling reprehensible, and, sadly, typically partisan. If Cook was the Democratic candidate for Congress, Taylor would be lauding his efforts as the most successful political force for change in the state. The Democratic Party, from Horiuchi to Jones, has traditionally been much more adroit at political articulation. Taylor is clearly a step down.

I intend to vote for Cook and, as I am finding, so is a great mass of the electorate who are tired of partisan politics as usual. People laughed when I told them Bob Bennett would win. As a professional, I believe Cook will win. The political winds are changing.

Richard P. Evans

Salt Lake City