Matheson edges Swallow: Negative campaigns prove futile in long run

By Steve Gehrke and Chrisina DeVore

In a heated 2nd Congressional District race that included two candidates exchanging harsh criticisms of each other, Democrat incumbent Jim Matheson squeaked past Republican John Swallow.

“I think [Matheson] is going to do a great job, even though he doesn’t represent Democrats nationally, he will represent Utah well,” said Brandon Lee, senior in political science.

Others shared Lee’s views.

“I’m very excited for Matheson and I’m impressed with his voting record,” said Patrick Barnes, Associated Students of the University of Utah chief of staff. “He has similar views as me for the most part and he looks at issues individually, which I think is important.”

Matheson announced his second consecutive victory over Swallow before a crowd of jubilant Democrats at the downtown Marriott Hotel Tuesday night, based on early Dan Jones & Associates predictions. Late-night polls indicated the incumbent led the race by just eight percentage points at 53 percent to 45 percent as of press time at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Matheson’s victory has raised questions regarding the effectiveness of campaign attack advertisements, which both candidates used. Swallow attacked Matheson’s voting record and values and the incumbent replied by questioning his challenger’s integrity.

“This campaign has not been easy, it’s been a campaign where the tone at times is not what we want in our politics,” Matheson said. “The good news about the results tonight is that honesty and integrity won.”

Swallow chose not to address the Republican crowd at the Hilton Hotel and was unavailable for comment.

U students responded to the ad campaigning, addressing the effects it had on their vote.

“Swallow keeps hoping to push negative ads and negative ads in Utah never work,” Lee said.

Barnes agreed.

“I was very unimpressed with Swallow’s ads and his campaign approach, and I think it was very unintelligent,” he said. “He used scare tactics and didn’t show issues.”

Vital local issues were buried beneath the mud slung by each candidate.

Krista Della-Piana, a junior in political science, said she never even heard what Swallow stood for. However, some voters expressed concern with potential nuclear testing in Nevada and the subsequent hazardous fallout on Utah.

In past debates, Matheson has spoken out about his disdain for nuclear research because of its tendency to lead to testing.

“The government has lied about it in the past,” Matheson said. “There are a half billion dollars being requested over the next two years for bunker-busting nuclear weapons studies and the military will want to test those weapons. Research does equal testing-you can’t have one without the other. Nuclear weapons kill civilians and create serious tactical problems.”

According to election results, Utahns appeared to favor Matheson’s criticism of ongoing funding and research for new nuclear development projects. The votes rejected Swallow’s claim that computer testing could occur with precision and cast out any need for tangible tests.

Although Swallow said Matheson was disliked by both Democrats and Republicans in the House, voters favored Matheson, who claimed he is an independent voice and does not “play follow-the-leader” in the House.

“I’ve passed many bills attached to others,” he said. “A party label does not drive what I do. I have a great relationship with both sides of Congress-Democrat and Republican.”

Matheson, 44, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2000 and is set to begin his third term.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and earned a master’s in business administration from UCLA.

In the past, Matheson has both worked on his father’s campaign and managed Wayne Owens’ gubernatorial campaign.

The congressman has professional experience as an energy consultant and a lobbyist.

As of Oct. 13, Matheson’s total campaign expenditures added up to $1,585,270, about $500,000 more than Swallow.

Matheson is Utah’s sole Democratic representation in the U.S. Legislature. Utah’s Republican senators and congressmen are newly re-elected Sen. Bob Bennett, and Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop and Rep. Chris Cannon in the House.

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Utah Gubernatorial Campaign ExpendituresMatheson Jr. $1,681,622.74Huntsman Jr. $3,276,293.88