After Lugar, eyes turn toward Hatch in Utah
May 9th, 2012
06:11 PM ET
6 years ago

After Lugar, eyes turn toward Hatch in Utah

(CNN) - While Richard Mourdock knocked out the Senate's most senior Republican in Tuesday's Indiana primary, a GOP candidate in Utah is hoping to do the same to the second longest-serving Senate Republican: Orrin Hatch.

Dan Liljenquist, the former state senator challenging Hatch, quickly fired out a statement Tuesday night, praising Mourdock's win and pushing for a repeat for conservative Republicans in Utah's GOP primary this June.

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"Our ever-increasing federal budget deficit and exploding national debt are the result of Senators like Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar who were more concerned with implementing their pet projects than sound fiscal governance," Liljenquist said in a statement.

Hatch and Lugar are both serving a sixth term in the Senate. While they were sworn in on the same day-January 3, 1977-Lugar took his oath three senators ahead of Hatch, qualifying Lugar as the most senior Republican.

"Orrin Hatch went to Washington nearly four decades ago and became part of the problem. It is time that we hold him accountable for the things that have happened under his watch," Liljenquist said.

While the Utah primary won't come until June 26, the Senate race has long been underway. The state held its caucuses in March, electing 4,000 delegates to the party convention in April. Hatch won the delegate race at the convention but failed by one percentage point to capture the 60% needed to skip a primary and move on to the general.

He'll now face off against Liljenquist, the candidate who came in second place. Liljenquist's delegate haul at the convention re-energized his supporters in the state, leading some to believe he may pose a threat to Hatch this summer.

Elected to the state senate in 2008, Liljenquist gained popularity for spearheading efforts to overhaul Utah's pension and Medicaid programs. Prior to entering public office, he worked for Bain Capital, the same firm previously headed by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

While he's had support from FreedomWorks, Liljenquist hasn't nearly seen the deluge of contributions from outside groups like Mourdock did in Indiana. And Hatch's campaign has spent more than $5 million this cycle, on top of big money from several outside groups supporting his candidacy.

Hatch has also moved more aggressively in his campaign than Lugar did to emphasize his conservative credentials.

Team Hatch, after Lugar's defeat, sent out a statement Wednesday defending his own conservative credentials-features Lugar was accused of lacking.

"From the first day of service in the United States Senate, Senator Orrin Hatch has been guided by the conservative principles that define Utah – limited government, lower taxes, less government spending, and personal responsibility," the statement said.

His campaign points to Romney's backing of the senator-the presidential candidate even starred in a commercial for Hatch-as well as praise from groups like the National Rifle Association and Club for Growth, though the latter group has not endorsed Hatch's re-election bid or spent money on the race.

Liljenquist has been pushing Hatch to accept a debate invitations leading up to the primary. Hatch agreed to one debate, which would be their third debate of the cycle.

The single debate will be held on KSL radio in June, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Filed under: 2012 • Orrin Hatch • Senate • Utah
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Paul

    Comparing Hatch and Liljenquist records are rather boring. Both increased the size of government and voted for pork and party and rallied behind those who did not like change to make government far more costly than before they were there. Both have lowered personal taxes and made their business buddys content. The personal accountability by their vote put on us makes me not like either one of them. They love those sin taxes and reducing personal liberties so they feel good on sundays. Seperation of church and state in Utah is a very narrow thread blowing in the wind. Hatch is more interesting in one way; he ran for the oval office a long time ago. Liljenquist might be needed again if Romney scores cause they were both Bain Capital_ist.

    May 10, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
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