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The pugilistic contest that is the Salt Lake City mayoral race got a little more bare knuckled over the weekend as incumbent Ralph Becker called on a former top adviser to weigh in against challenger Jackie Biskupski.

In a TV ad paid for by Becker's campaign, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams casts doubt on Biskupski: "With a strong partnership between Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City, we have been able to do amazing things," McAdams says. "I need a strong partner in Salt Lake City. I'm not sure Jackie has the vision or the leadership to be that partner."

McAdams on Monday directed questions about the ad to Becker's campaign manager, Matt Lyon.

Lyon said the spot is not negative campaigning.

"This race is about what is in Salt Lake City's future," he said, adding that Biskupski is offering nothing new. "If you are running on change, you have to show plans of what your vision is."

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One impartial observer said Becker's new TV spot is not only negative, it is personal.

"This surprises me. This is unlike Ralph [Becker]," said Tim Chambless, professor of political science at the University of Utah who also is affiliated with the Hinckley Institute of Politics. "It tells me he is feeling anxious about being behind. And when you are behind, there is a tendency to go negative."

Republicans must be "chortling," Chambless said, because the two camps are made up of Democrats.

"It's an intra-party fight," he said. "But it's more than that, it's personal."

Chambless wondered if such a tactic could backfire.

"I would tend to think that, given Utah's history of not liking negative campaigning, this could ricochet," he said. "This may solidify Jackie's support. [Her supporters] may make a point of coming out to vote."

In an interview Monday, Biskupski said the ad wouldn't sway Salt Lake City voters.

"Voters see in me a very viable vision," she said. "They are excited for the opportunity to have change."

Supporters of Biskupski will hold a news conference Tuesday to highlight Salt Lake County leaders who back the challenger.

Councilmen Arlyn Bradshaw and Sam Granato, along with Sheriff Jim Winder and former Councilman Joe Hatch, are scheduled to talk about Biskupski's vision and leadership "resonating" with voters.

Biskupski, who served 12 years in the Utah House of Representatives and eight years as a top executive in the administration of Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder, said she has more public-policy experience than either Becker or McAdams when they ran for their current posts. (Becker served 12 years in the Utah House, while McAdams spent five years in the Senate and four years as Becker's senior adviser for intergovernmental affairs.)

Much of what Becker is now doing is a reaction to her campaign, Biskupski said, pointing to the mayor's commission on homelessness and his new economic development plan.

"The mayor ignored all the big issues until he decided to run for a third term," she said.

But according to Lyon, it is Biskupski's campaign that is going negative. He pointed to an op-ed column by former Mayor Rocky Anderson published Sunday in The Salt Lake Tribune. Three of its 14 cosigners sit on Biskupski's finance committee.

Those volunteers have no say in the day-to-day operation of Biskupski's organization, according to campaign manager Maryann Martindale.