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GOP sheriff hopefuls in Utah County offer differing viewpoints

SHARE GOP sheriff hopefuls in Utah County offer differing viewpoints

The least that can be said of the two Republican candidates for Utah County sheriff is that they won't confuse primary election voters with their similarities.

On the contrary, David Bateman and Richard Mack seem to be as different as two candidates from the same political party could be. Bateman is dull but steady; Mack is flashy and a lightning rod for controversy.Bateman represents the known albeit imperfect leadership of the past 13 years, while Mack's appeal is based on a different - but some say ineffective - approach to law enforcement.

Perhaps more than anywhere else, their differences can be seen in the two candidates' respective stances on several major issues in the campaign (see accompanying chart).

Bateman, 57, was appointed Utah County sheriff in 1985 and has been re-elected three times since then. He has three children and five grandchildren and has lived his entire life in the northern Utah County community of Alpine.

Mack, 45, recently moved back to Provo after eight years as sheriff of Graham County, Ariz., which has a population about one-tenth of Utah County's. Mack graduated from Brigham Young University before taking a job as a Provo police officer in the 1970s.

He is most well-known for his controversial stand against the background check requirements of the Brady gun law. He and another small-town sheriff took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court, where justices ruled in their favor.

Whichever candidate emerges from Tuesday's Republican primary will face Democrat George Alexanderson, a Utah County deputy sheriff and former New York City policeman, in the November general election.

One of the issues on which Bateman and Mack differ concerns traffic checkpoints, or roadblocks. Under Bateman, the Utah County Sheriff's Office has consistently gotten judicial approval to stage the checkpoints - especially on busy weekends like Easter - at strategic locations to screen for drunken drivers and other violators of the law.

But Mack contends that the traffic checkpoints are an intrusion of residents' privacy and possibly a violation of their constitutional rights. He proposed during a recent debate with Bateman that a better alternative would be setting up a shuttle system at local bars to ensure that drunken Utah County residents don't try to drive themselves home.

Mack also has objected to Bateman's practice of accepting federal government grants to fund law enforcement programs. The grants typically run out after a couple of years, and then the sheriff's office is forced to either come up with money each year or discontinue the programs.

Bateman applied for and received grants to start the Utah County Gang Project - which has since become locally funded - and a canyon patrol staffed by several deputies.

Mack has said that Bateman's approach is outdated and stale and that conditions for inmates at the Utah County Security Center are too posh. The normally congenial Bateman, meanwhile, recently started to label Mack an extremist who would bring trouble and strife to the sheriff's office.

Bateman contends that Mack's views tend toward the far right of the political spectrum, but Mack has taken steps to distance himself from ultra-conservative candidates like Jeremy Friedbaum, who is challenging 3rd Congressional District Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, in the primary.

"Jeremy Friedbaum is probably a good man," Mack said in a recent written statement. "However, I cannot agree with the ideology on which he has based his candidacy and I have made no attempts to associate my campaign with his in any manner."

Although Bateman wondered aloud at a recent debate about Mack's association with the militia movement, Mack has said he accepted no money from militia groups to finance his campaign.

A financial report filed with the Utah County Auditor's Office shows that Mack received contributions from several dozen individuals totaling $14,674. Bateman, meanwhile, reported only $2,740 in contributions to his campaign.

Mack's superior funding shows in the number of campaign signs and bumper stickers ("Back Mack" is his slogan) that have appeared throughout Utah County in recent weeks.

Despite their differences, the two candidates agree that something must be done to stem the rising tide of crime in Utah County. Bateman's plan about how to do that is much more specific than that of Mack, who has said little other than that the crime rate is too high. Another spot of common ground is that both candidates accuse the other of trying to start civilian "posses."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Utah County sheriff

What is the top law enforcement issue facing Utah County?

RICHARD MACK

The alarming rise in the crime rate is the No. 1 issue. My opponent has said his record speaks for itself and that nothing is "broke" here. His record does speak for itself and it says that this is the highest crime rate since Bateman has been in office.

DAVID R. BATEMAN

For two consecutive years, the people of Utah County have identified crime as one of their primary concerns. My focus will include two major strategies: aggressive law enforcement and investigation of crime and community-based prevention programs.

Why should primary voters pick you instead of your intra-party opponent?

RICHARD MACK

Plain and simply, it's time for a change. I bring new ideas, new energy, innovation, creativity and a new dedication to a position saturated with complacency. Sheriff Bateman tried to leave the sheriff's office about a year ago as he applied for a job with the state. His commitment to the Utah County Sheriff's Office is obviously waning.

DAVID R. BATEMAN

I think the choice is clear. Voters can choose between stable law enforcement characterized by unprecedented cooperation between law enforcement agencies or an atmosphere of contention characterized by litigation and turmoil - the latter being an expensive approach but consistent in philosophy with a former "tax-and-spend" Democratic officeholder.

Do you favor traffic checkpoints? Why or why not?

RICHARD MACK

The way they are presently conducted, no, I do not. Now the Supreme Court and some in the police community pretend probable cause is not necessary as long as checkpoints "detain" all citizens equally. I cannot believe that my opponent has no problem with stopping all Utah County drivers, making sure their papers are in order and then arresting anyone who does not. There are other ways to enforce the law without such abuse.

DAVID R. BATEMAN

Yes, I favor traffic checkpoints. Statistics prove they are an effective tool in controlling drunk drivers and crime in general. Their legality has been determined by the Utah Legislature's Administrative Traffic Checkpoint Act and upheld through numerous court challenges including the U.S. Supreme Court in Michigan Dept. of State Police vs. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990).

How would you ensure adequate space for the rising jail-inmate population?

RICHARD MACK

The jail has become far too comfortable for inmates here. Wouldn't you like to sit around playing games, watching cable TV or exercising while being fed three very nice meals each day? I will replace these luxuries with work programs and put bologna sandwiches, cereal and peanut butter and jelly back as the main menu.

DAVID R. BATEMAN

The facility was designed to facilitate expansion. The core is capable of handling more than twice the current population. Continuing to build, however, is not the answer. We must devise alternative sanctions that ensure accountability of the offender. I have pioneered a number of those and will continue to do so.

Do you favor accepting federal grants for financing of local programs?

RICHARD MACK

No, I do not. Federal grants have been abused here and create dependency. Abdicating our responsibility to fund our own sheriff's office is wrong. Making excuses for this practice is also wrong. My opponent has said he feels this practice is wrong, but will continue to do it anyway.

DAVID R. BATEMAN

Yes. In my view tax money is tax money no matter the source, and I will continue to seek alternative funding sources for local programming. This shifts the tax burden from property taxes to across a broader tax base. No funds will be accepted if the integrity of the office of sheriff is undermined.

How do you plan to address complaints from deputy sheriffs that they are underpaid?

RICHARD MACK

First, I will cut unnecessary expenses out of the sheriff's budget and recommend that that money be used for increased pay for deputies. My opponent has said that he has turned back budgeted monies to the county at the end of the fiscal year on several occasions. That money should have gone to deputies. We owe these people an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.

DAVID R. BATEMAN

I agree with the deputies; however, all Utah County employees are compensated under a plan adopted by the County Commission. The plan is market-based and determines compensation rates. As sheriff, my role is to work within this system to ensure market data is accurate, job descriptions are comparable and individual employees are not treated unfairly. My record shows a continuing commitment.

Bateman's question for Mack: How do you ethically and legally justify the formation of the "Sheriff Mack Posse" and the issuing of credentials consisting of a badge bearing the great seal of the state of Utah and an identification card with your signature as "Sheriff"?

RICHARD MACK

My opponent up until this week has been running a decent campaign. He stated in the Deseret News (6/9/98) that running a clean campaign "was not getting the job done." In other words, he's willing to compromise his standards. I do have a Sheriff Mack commemorative 3-oz. silver or bronze coin. Any officer could tell it's not a real badge. However, my opponent has been using citizen volunteers (posse) for years and issues them an official police identification and badge. Obviously, this issue was created by my opponent's own desperation.

Mack's question for Bateman: Throughout your campaign you have maintained a philosophy that "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" as if nothing is wrong at the Utah County Sheriff's Office. In view of the low morale, low pay for deputies, an extremely understaffed office, the crime rate being the highest it's ever been since you've been in office, etc., how can you continue to ask Utah County citizens for their vote as if nothing was "broke" here?

DAVID R. BATEMAN

Easy, one must accept Mr. Mack's characterization of the sheriff's office. I do not. I believe the voters prefer someone who understands local issues and has devoted the majority of his adult years to solving local problems rather than a shift in philosophy that is confrontational and centered on national political issues that have little to do with the quality of life we enjoy in Utah County.

Bateman's question for Mack: If you will not utilize federal funds, how do you propose to make up the resultant budget shortfall and keep your promise to the deputies to raise their salaries?

RICHARD MACK

This will be a lot easier now that I found Mr. Bateman's claim that the sheriff's office budget is not funded 25 percent by federal grants but actually only about 4 percent.

Mack's question for Bateman: Why do you continue to provide "pork barrel" luxuries to inmates such as workout facilities, three square hot meals a day, cable television, whirlpools, and other accommodations that most average citizens cannot afford?

DAVID R. BATEMAN

It is obvious to me, by this question, that Mr. Mack has never been in the Utah County Security Center nor has he had any credible experience in operating a jail of this size, especially in Utah. The public is welcome to see for themselves if "pork barrel" luxuries are afforded inmates. One thing I guarantee, the jail is run constitutionally.