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Break out the pillows. A televised fluff fight is breaking out in the race for Utah's governor.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon has been running television ads for about two weeks focusing on his bipartisanship and common sense and touting how cheap, er, frugal he is.
Gov. Gary Herbert is countering with a string of ads testimonials from Utah business leaders and a legislator talking about his strong sense of business values and personal integrity that began running this week.
"He wants this government to run like a business," says Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President Lane Beattie in one of the testimonial spots. "Isn't that nice?"
"Nice" is the theme of the race so far, which, aside from a barb from Herbert's camp over Corroon sending his kids to private school, has been sunshine and lollipops.
If, as the saying goes, nice guys finish last, they could both lose.
Herbert said his campaign anticipates spending $1 million or more on television and radio ads, starting with the set of ads he rolled out Wednesday, and producing as many as 20 before the November election.
"We're looking forward to a robust debate on the issues," Herbert said Wednesday.
Corroon's campaign has already spent more than $270,000 on his ad production and media buy, according to financial disclosures. Corroon spokeswoman Stella Thurkill said the campaign will be outspent but will have enough media to stay competitive and, for now, plans to keep the tone upbeat.
"For now, that's the tone we will continue to put out there. It is a good way for people to get to know Peter and [lieutenant governor nominee] Sheryl [Allen]," Thurkill said. "We're going to stick with the issues … that are important to Utahns."
Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, said it's standard for both campaigns to try to define their candidates as the good guy out of the gate.
"If you're winning, you don't talk about the other guy," Jowers said. "If you're losing, then you have a tougher job because you not only need to define yourself in favorable terms, but you have to start taking points off the guy who's ahead and, therefore, take some shots at the front-runner."
Based on where the polls stand now a recent survey by Rasmussen Reports indicated that Herbert was leading Corroon 60 percent to 29 percent Jowers said he wouldn't expect the governor to go after Corroon anytime soon.
There are omens of potential political conflict, however, as Herbert accused Corroon of raising taxes on unincorporated Salt Lake County residents through a public safety fee.
"Whether you call it a police fee [or not], it's raising taxes. I think that's the wrong way to do it," he said. "It's not right to take from the struggling public and say, for some reason, government needs to salve its wounds more than [the public]."
Herbert said he hadn't raised "general" taxes as governor.
He did allow a $1-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax to take effect. He didn't sign the bill, but he didn't veto it.
"I was put in a box by the Legislature," he said. "You have to make choices in this world. I could have vetoed the tobacco tax in the last week of the session, put a hole in the budget and sacrificed education."
Corroon has, during the past several months, spelled out differences between his approach to governing and that of the Herbert administration. For example, Corroon has said he would eliminate incentives that attract businesses that compete with Utah-based companies, stiffen graduation requirements for high schools and do more to protect the state's air and water quality.