SOUTH JORDAN — Democratic congressional candidate Doug Owens used the announcement Tuesday of an endorsement from the 4th District's outgoing Rep. Jim Matheson to again portray his opponent, Mia Love, as a political extremist.
The site of the announcement, Riverfront West Park, was where Love cheered at a rally held last November to thank Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, for being a leader in the fight against Obamacare that led to a shutdown of the federal government.
"Love was visibly expressing her support for that shutdown at the time," Owens said. "To be applauding that is quite a position that's far out there and does not reflect the pragmatic view that Utahns take toward politics."
He said he believes voters want "somebody who's going to go to Washington and be willing to work across party lines instead of pushing a harsh, extremist agenda that's really out there, and I think Sen. Lee did that."
Love's campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said Love, the former mayor of Saratoga Springs, did not "endorse the shutdown" at the rally.
"She was there for Sen. Lee. Nobody wanted the shutdown, including the senator, and she had absolutely nothing to do with it," Hansen said. "If that's the kind of issues they're talking about, they really are grasping at straws."
Owens made similar statements about what he called Love's "extreme views" at the first debate between the candidates last month. Love said then that it was "absolutely absurd that he would put words in my mouth" about the shutdown.
Matheson said he was endorsing Owens because he will continue his approach to serving in Congress, which is "all about solving problems and achieving progress, not about partisan bickering, gridlock or shutting down the government."
The seven-term congressman said Owens, an attorney, should be his successor because Owens is "thoughtful and independent, open-minded and humble. He will be a common sense voice committed to getting things done."
Owens told KSL NewsRadio's "Doug Wright Show" he got his first "political tutelage" from Matheson 30 years ago when Matheson managed the gubernatorial campaign of his late father, former Rep. Wayne Owens, and Owens was a volunteer coordinator.
"We do go way back, and I think we have a similar approach," Owens said.
Matheson, whose late father, Scott Matheson, was the state's last Democratic governor, said Owens can win in the state's newest congressional district if voters "do the right thing" and take the time to study the candidates.
But Matheson, who nearly lost to Love in 2012, said Owens is in for a tough race.
"Let's not kid ourselves. This district was drawn to be a Republican district," Matheson said, labeling it the most Republican district in the country held by a Democrat.
Still, Matheson said, 4th District voters "have demonstrated they're prepared to cross over and vote for somebody they feel is going to be a pragmatic force in Congress. That is what Doug is going to be."
Matheson took his own jab at Love, calling her "way out and not in line with most everyone in Utah" on issues including federal funding for education programs and relying too much on her campaign manager to speak for her.
"I think if you want to run for Congress these days, you've got to stand on your own two feet and speak for yourself," Matheson said.
Hansen said Love is continually meeting with voters.
"Mia Love's been out there for three years campaigning. People hear from her all the time. She's constantly speaking up," he said. "Mia Love has been out there talking to voters for years, not just a couple of months."