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A campaign mailer highlighting Rep. Brian Greene's controversial comments about spousal rape in early 2015 has caused a backlash in his Republican primary against challenger Xani Haynie, who said she had nothing to do with the flier and Greene is unfairly blaming her for it.
The progressive-leaning group Alliance For a Better Utah sent the mail piece to Republican voters in Greene's Pleasant Grove district, days ahead of Tuesday's primary election, which will decide the ultimate victor because no Democrat or third-party candidate has filed for the House 57 seat.
The mailer quotes Greene's comments in February 2015, in which he questioned whether a man could be charged with rape for having sex with his unconscious spouse.
"If an individual has sex with their wife while she is unconscious … a prosecutor could then charge that spouse with rape, theoretically," Greene said during a legislative committee hearing. "That makes sense in a first date scenario, but to me, not where people have a history of years of sexual activity."
The comments were condemned by rape-prevention groups and women's groups nationwide and Greene explained that he misspoke.
The Alliance For a Better Utah mail piece revives the comment and asks "Does Rep. Brian Greene value your agency? He said that it could be OK for a husband to rape his wife." In large black block letters it states "Rape is Rape" and urges voters to "Send Rep. Greene a message in the June 28th primary."
But in Utah, where politics is more genteel, the charged mailer could ultimately end up hurting Haynie.
"It's definitely damaging [to the campaign]," Haynie said. "It's unfortunate for both sides and I don't really appreciate being blamed by the other side for something I had nothing to do with. Neither my campaign nor I had anything to do with that mailer and I don't think it was really very helpful and I don't know the group and I'm not sure why they came into my race uninvited."
Rachel Sanders, executive director of the Alliance, said in a state with a high rate of rape and nearly 90 percent of assaults going unreported, there needs to be a discussion of rape and statements like Greene's are dangerous.
"Having sex with an unconscious person, regardless of whether or not they're your spouse, that's just rape," Sanders said. "Asking whether we want someone [in office] who is not clearly aware of that and is a husband and father, we're going to call that out because that's about accountability."
Sanders said she has never spoken with Haynie about the mailer and doesn't see it about her campaign as much as it is about inserting a conversation about attitudes about rape into the campaign.
Greene's campaign, however, used the mailer as an opportunity to attack Haynie for throwing mud, blaming Haynie in a statement from Greene's wife, Renee Greene, for sending the mailer accusing her husband of "supporting despicable things."
"I am so absolutely disgusted that anyone would go so low as to claim that Brian, who has poured his heart and soul into his legislative service, would ever condone such deplorable behavior," Renee Greene said in the statement. "Brian's opponent is apparently so desperate to win that she will say anything to get your vote. Unfortunately, this sad behavior is commonplace for candidates that lack depth and substance."
But Haynie said the first she heard about the mailer was when it arrived in her mailbox Thursday and it's unfair for Greene to launch an unwarranted attack on her.
"I'm not going to apologize for something I didn't do, I've never seen, I didn't talk to anybody about. I'm not into slander campaigns. That's not who I am," she said.
Haynie said Greene has personally alleged that Haynie is a Democrat and has suggested to voters that she and her husband weren't married, both of which she said she has proven are false.
"If we're going to talk about negative, dirty campaigning, let's do it with, at least, honesty," she said.
Greene did not return a phone call about the negative tactics or the mailers.