Gov. Mike Leavitt has started his primary election media campaign aimed at "reminding" Republicans why they should vote for him June 27.

And in his message he's clearly trying to counter claims from his party's right wing that he's pro-gun control, favors teaching sex education in public schools and is a buddy of Clinton Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt.In a direct mail piece that hit Utah homes (campaign spokesman Mike Mower refused to say how many homes) this week, Leavitt proclaims he's "protecting Utah values and traditions" by standing up for states' rights, gun rights and teaching rights. The foldout ad also details how under Leavitt's administration Utah's education system has improved, there are more higher-paying jobs and the quality of life has blossomed.

The mailer left Leavitt's GOP opponent Glen Davis scratching his head.

"I saw this and I thought: This is pure Clintonesque politics. He takes his weakest points and tries to make us believe they are his strongest points. What's his agenda? I don't know," Davis said.

Meantime, the governor has scrambled to adjust his schedule, including canceling a planned trip to the Western Governors Associa-

tion conference in Hawaii, to campaign in a primary election he didn't expect.

The campaign mailer says Leavitt has fought to reform federal and Utah's welfare systems, "reducing the number of (welfare) recipients by two-thirds. Now he's suing Bruce Babbitt and the federal government for ownership of Utah's roads. They are our roads and our rights."

"The people in southern Utah feel deserted," Davis said. "They're desperate."

-- On guns

Instead, -- his mailer says Leavitt "is an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment. He is endorsed by the National Rifle Association. He signed Utah's concealed weapons law into effect. He does not support trigger locks or instant checks at gun shows."

Davis pointed out that the NRA wasn't happy with Leavitt a year ago and that he has waffled on the gun issue. "He hasn't been an ardent supporter of our Second Amendment," Davis said.

And after taking heat from conservative Republicans over his veto in March of a bill that would have required only sexual abstinence be taught in public schools, his mailer says: "Schools must teach sexual abstinence in Utah as long as Mike Leavitt is governor. . . . He recently increased parents' rights in establishing curriculum. Gov. Leavitt insisted that the State Board of Education change its policies, so that teachers who stray from the curriculum stand to lose their teacher certification."

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Orton laughed when told about the Leavitt comment on Babbitt. "Wasn't Bruce Babbitt in these (land exchanges) with the governor? Personally, I welcome Mike Leavitt's move to the right. He's already lost the right wing of the party, but he'll win the primary anyway with the Republican center. Then if he moves back to the center he'll look like he's waffling -- again -- and if he stays to the right, out of the mainstream, it just helps me in the general election," Orton said.

Mower declined to elaborate on the message Leavitt is trying to send, except to say: "We recognize that we are in a Republican Party primary. We want to remind people about the governor's strong stand on Second Amendment rights, that sexual abstinence must be taught in the schools."

Davis said Leavitt's contradictory messages leave him wondering where the governor stands. "He fishtails just back and forth," Davis said.

Leavitt has also started running a radio ad. That spot has various "regular citizens talking about why they support the governor" and listing Leavitt success stories, Mower said. He declined to say how much air time the Leavitt campaign has purchased on various radio stations.

Mower said one of the biggest buys is on KSL Radio. Lora Woodbury, KSL Radio national sales manager, said Leavitt has purchased $4,042 of time this week and next.

Leavitt has more than $1 million in his political action committee and the ability to raise much more. Mower said TV ads before the primary are a possibility, but no final decision has been made.

Davis' low-budget campaign can't afford TV ads or direct mail. He intends to use cheaper newspaper inserts. He has scripts written for radio spots, but they have not been recorded. Davis said he hopes to get them on the air next Thursday.

Besides his mailer and radio ad, Leavitt is starting a campaign bus tour around the state. Wednesday and Thursday the governor and his bus will visit Spanish Fork, St. George and then drive up I-15 to Salt Lake City, making stops along the way. Leavitt didn't count on having a primary, and his schedule is being rewritten for June to make time for campaign events around the state.

Davis left Friday morning for a two-day campaign trip to Kanab, St. George and Cedar City. He'll hold town meetings in parks, meet with ranchers and GOP leaders and take an air tour of the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument.

E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com ; romboy@desnews.com