(CNN) - The main Republican candidate running against Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah upped the ante on Tuesday, using his first television ad to challenge the longtime senator to a televised debate.
"Debates play a critical role in Utah elections," Dan Liljenquist, a former state senator, says in the commercial. "Sen. Hatch used to believe this as well."
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He goes on to point out that during Hatch's first Senate campaign - in 1976 - Hatch called on his opponent to engage in eight debates.
"I've issued the same challenge to Sen. Hatch. But now he refuses to debate more than once, and he refuses to debate on television entirely," Liljenquist says.
While Hatch has agreed to a radio debate shortly before the state's June 26 primary, his critics, as well as certain newspaper editorial boards, have called on the six-term senator to make his case on TV, side-by-side with Liljenquist.
Hatch's team and supporters, however, have said their candidate has no reason to take to the stage with his opponent, arguing he already did two debates prior to the state's convention in April and has a busy schedule in Washington.
Responding to the new spot, Evelyn Call, Hatch's communications director, described Liljenquist's debate campaign as a publicity stunt.
"We are greatly disappointed that our opponent would choose an attack ad as their first opportunity to introduce themselves to the voters of Utah," Call said in a statement. "Voters are concerned with the economy and the fiscal future or our country, not trivial campaign rhetoric."
The senator's debate snub has become a major talking point in the Utah race, with Hatch's opponents seizing on the issue to paint the senator as out-of-touch. One man even launched a hunger strike, pledging not to eat until Hatch goes on TV.
Liljenquist's campaign has especially put pressure on the incumbent to debate.
"Call Senator Hatch today," Liljenquist says in the new spot, with the phone number for Hatch's campaign headquarters displayed on the screen. "Tell him that the people of Utah deserve real debates on real issues."
Liljenquist emerged as Hatch's main opponent after surviving the state's caucuses in March and the party convention in April. Hatch needed 60% of the convention delegates to avoid a primary, but fell one percentage point short. Liljenquist, meanwhile, garnered a surprising 40%.
While Hatch has outraised and outspent his opponent by millions, Liljenquist has significant tea party backing in the state and support from the national conservative group FreedomWorks–though his campaign hasn't seen quite the level of national attention as other Senate primary challengers this cycle.
In his column, however, Hatch has the backing of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a popular figure in Utah. The senator also has a handful of outside groups throwing money in the race on his behalf.
At $125,000, Liljenquist's 30-second ad will air statewide on broadcast television and the Fox News Channel. The campaign plans to be up with the ad through primary day in late June.
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the repo party cant take care of its own let alone challenge the president. What do you expect from a stae full of mormons who untill 1971 didnt even recongnize black people untill leader had his vision which coincided with the fed gove taking away no profit status of church. Bunch of clowns
Hatch is a primary example for the need of term limitations.
Judy– First Blacks have always been allowed to be members of the LDS Church. J. Smith even ordained one with the priesthood in his day. It was after that Blacks could not hold the priesthood, no one really knows how or why that happened. The year was 1978 that all worthy men were allowed to hold the priesthood again. 2nd–Just how many people are allowed to hold the priesthood in most Christian churches? Do you have to attend a seminary or get a degree of some kind? How many churches even welcomed people of difference races to worship with them until after the civil rights movement? I personally knew black Mormons who were members before 1978. 3rd–There are plenty of reasons not to support either of these candidates but insults on their personal religious beliefs have no place in political discussion. Have a nice day!
How far has the Republican Party detoriated into the extreme? Four years ago, who would have thought that the GOP would sponsor a primary challenger against the conservative stalwart Sen. Hatch in 2012? Most Republicans would not have believed it possible, and would have been ready to toss the subversives out of the party. Today, most Republicans seem to be applauding this challenge to Hatch. That should give you some idea of just how far the GOTP has moved to the extreme right.
Hatch has a job to do, unlike Liljenquist who quit his. By the way, in 2011 I called then State Sen. Liljenquist several times about House Bill 477, which was going to change the way Utah handled requests for public information from residents and the media. My friends called him several times. Did he call us back? Nope. Did he respond to my emails? Nope. Instead he voted for HB 477 and defended it. Three days later, after a large uproar by the state's residents, he did a 180 and said they should revote. Maybe if he would have listened to the people in the first place that wouldn't have happened.
The GOBP's circular firing squad continues.
Rudy & JA– You both make very good arguments. While I'm for term limits, this is not the time with this candidate. Liljenquist is WAY out there to the right and not in anyway representative of the public's views. I also was active in the public outcry over HB477 and had the same response from most the GOP in Ut. There are two sides of a ship to go overboard and Liljenquist is definitely off the right side of the boat. Most of Ut. State Legislature has joined him as well. Time for moderation and who'da ever thunk that would be Hatch?
Thanks for the info, JA. Our latest crop of GOBP cultmembers seem hellbent on ignoring the wishes of the US public, like the millionaire tax and keeping/improving ACA.
Could you vote for a person who wants to be canader in chief , when that person and family all avoided voluntary military service on the grounds of there religion ?
I will not , I don't want to live in a cast system , this is America not India .
Wow, I didn't know the reason why Mitt Romney and his five(5) adult sons don't serve in our U.S. military because they are Mormons but at the same time Romney wants to be the Commander in Chief of our military men and women. I have nothing against Mormons but I have a great deal of respect for our military men and women along with their families, because I was a military wife, sister and sister-in-law.
@BB – Hatch is a primary example for the need of term limitations.
why? 'Cus he reaches across the aisle to actually work with the Dems at governing? That of course makes him a RINO and potential "lib" in today's teatards land of no compromise. And.. BTW – we have term limits.. its called the "vote". If you want them retired, get out and vote.