While candidates in other races are beating each other up in preparation for the June 25 primary, the 1st Congressional District race can be summed up in two words:
Pretty boring.There's only one candidate from each party in the race for Rep. Jim Hansen's seat - Hansen, the Republican incumbent, and Greg Sanders, the Democratic challenger - so there's no primary. For Hansen the campaign has yet to get into second gear, much less overdrive.
"We have so many things on our platter back here . . . I frankly haven't had much time to do anything," Hansen said.
When asked when he anticipates really getting going on his campaign, Hansen replied, "November third."
Hansen's nonchalance is justified in the view of many political pundits, who predict Sanders will be nothing more than Hansen's latest victim come November. Hansen already has the longest tenure of any Utah congressman in history, and he won five of his eight congressional elections easily. He beat challenger Bobbie Coray by a 2-1 margin in 1994.
What's more, Sanders has vowed to run a bare-bones campaign, with no contributions from special interests or political action committees. Honorable, yes, but tough to do in modern-day campaigns where money equals exposure.
"We're doing this the old-fashioned way," Sanders said. "Door to door, street by street."
Hansen is already accusing Sanders of violating his no-special-interest-contribution promise by accepting money from prolific political contributor Ian Cummings and some trial attorneys, an accusation Sanders calls "ridiculous."
"He's defining special interests as everybody," Sanders said. "If that's the best shot he can take, he's in trouble."
In contrast with Hansen, Sanders has already been doing a fair amount of grass-roots campaigning. He estimates he's been conducting home meetings an average of once a week and has appeared at summer fairs and parades.
For financial reasons Sanders won't be doing television spots but rather radio ads, though he won't start going on the air until three weeks before the election in order to make them most effective, said his campaign manager, Monica Moe.
Sanders has plenty of grist for discussion on the issues. He disagrees with Hansen's confrontational style in getting bills through, he supports more wilderness acreage designation in Utah than Hansen wants, and he generally is less for ranchers and businessmen and more for environmentalists.
"The values this campaign will promote are those of quality of life," he said. "(Currently), the problems of air and water quality are put off for tomorrow's generation because there seems to be no immediate return on protecting those resources."
Given Sanders' methods, he has yet to reach a large number of voters.
"I don't know what he's doing," Hansen said. "We don't know."
Sanders has been touting his recently won endorsement from well-known ancient studies scholar Hugh Nibley. To celebrate the endorsement Nibley wrote a "parable," a tale of a youth who inherited land from his father and needed to decide whether to sell the land to a developer who "had gathered great wealth for himself while leaving vast wreckage behind him."
The parable is a thinly veiled jab at Hansen, who generally supports ranching and mining rights on public lands.
"Mr. Nibley surely has a right to write what he wants to write," Hansen said of the parable. "(But) I think some guy from the middle of Zambia could write the same thing and it wouldn't mean anything. This is just platitudes."
Nibley said he endorsed Sanders because their political and environmental views converge. Nevertheless, he wasn't impressed with Sanders' laid-back style.
"I find him awfully dull, but that doesn't mean he won't do a good job," Nibley said.