Words are flying in the 2nd Congressional District Democratic Party race, with Kelly Atkinson saying Ross Anderson's claims against him are "B.S.," Anderson saying Atkinson is a typical politician who takes tobacco campaign money and free trips from lobbyists to play golf in Oregon.
"I'm introducing two new words to this campaign today," Atkinson told a debate crowd at the University of Utah on Thursday, "Gunk and bunk. Only at the University of Utah can I say bull s---. But that is what is happening (in this campaign). Every time I say gunk and bunk I mean" B.S. He went on to say gunk or bunk to Anderson's remarks several times over the next hour.The Anderson-Atkinson race, so far, has been much more lively than the Republican contest between R. Todd Neilson and Merrill Cook. The primary election is June 25.
Atkinson got into a feisty mood earlier this week after learning of an Anderson press release that says Atkinson refuses to meet with Anderson to talk about campaign issues and/or campaign spending limits. Atkinson says he's tried to return Anderson telephone calls but gets voice mail or busy signals. He calls Anderson's claims "laughable, ironic and hypocritical." Anderson said "this is another example of Kelly trying to trivialize an important issue - I want to talk about how to run a real, meaningful campaign and he complains about phone calls not returned."
Atkinson started the U. debate by producing an Anderson fund-raising letter, reading from it, shaking it at Anderson's face and asking if Anderson, a lawyer who has done pro-bono work in the community, would give him free legal advice on whether Atkinson needs to mention the letter in his federal campaign reports "because you mention my name 14 times in the letter, more times than you even mention your own name, and distort my positions four times."
Later, when the candidates were arguing over a 1994 Deseret News article quoting Atkinson, a copy of which Atkinson had, Anderson took it away from Atkinson to "finish a quote he's not telling you." Atkinson ripped it out of Anderson's hands but said he could look at it later if he wanted.
Some of the debate exchanges include:
- Anderson said Democrats shouldn't look to Atkinson for campaign and political reform considering Atkinson takes tobacco money in contributions and once took a lobbyist-paid trip to Oregon to look at and play on golf courses. The company was interested in buying state park land and developing a golf course on it. After the debate, Anderson said, "Kelly takes tobacco money and then votes against a cigarette tax increases."
Atkinson said state economic development chief Joe Jenkins "made a personal request" that Atkinson go on the trip and Atkinson let the business pay for the trip "because I never travel on taxpayers money." Atkinson is a 10-year legislative veteran. For the past six years, Atkinson said, he hasn't accepted lobbyists' gifts or trips. He said he gives tobacco money contributions to the American Cancer Society. He said he voted against the 1996 tobacco tax hike because he believed the money would go to the general fund, not to tobacco preventive programs for youths as promised.
- Anderson said anyone who reads local newspapers, as he does, knew about the severe problems with the first anti-gay/lesbian club bill in the 1996 Legislature (which Atkinson voted for) and the "give-away to the wealthy" land swap at Snowbasin that would benefit a local businessman who contributed heavily in political campaigns. Atkinson was derelict in his duty in either not reading those bills, not understanding them or both, says Anderson.
Atkinson says Anderson's claims are "pure bunk." The original gay/lesbian club bill didn't outlaw gay clubs at all, but really only said teachers couldn't advocate illegal acts, said Atkinson, producing a copy of the bill. On that belief, he voted for it. "Is (Anderson) saying he wants teachers to advocate illegal acts?" Atkinson said a number of legislators were "fooled" by the Snowbasin land swap resolution because it called for value-for-value land swap to allow the 2002 Olympics to have proper ski runs. Atkinson says he's opposed the swap ever since he learned it would greatly help local hotelier/ski resort owner Earl Holding.
- Atkinson said it will take the "Mormon vote" for a Democrat to win the 2nd District and he can get it. Anderson said it is deplorable to "play the religion card, which he's done today and has done before" in the race.
Atkinson is a practicing member of the LDS Church. Anderson was raised a member of the LDS Church but is not a practicing member now, saying after the debate "my spirituality is a private matter. I decided to do good works in the community as part of that."