Hunger strike against Hatch?
May 19th, 2012
03:56 PM ET
11 years ago

Hunger strike against Hatch?

(CNN) – The longest McKay Christensen has ever gone without food is 36 hours.

But now he's vowed to give up eating altogether in a bizarre protest against Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, saying he won't take a bite until the veteran GOP senator agrees to take part in a televised debate ahead of the state's June primary.

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Christensen, a 43-year-old warehouse manager, is an ardent supporter of former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, the main Republican candidate attempting to oust Hatch in a heated primary battle.

While Hatch, who's running for a seventh term, has agreed to a radio debate set to take place shortly before the June 26 contest, some of Hatch's critics say that's not enough. They want a debate soon, and they want it on TV.

Christensen says he's willing to risk his health to make that happen.

"I know this is pretty extreme, but this is an election," Christensen told CNN. "It's going to take something extreme to not only get their attention, but to create enough pressure that they'll have to respond."

Liljenquist's campaign, as well as the editorial boards for the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, have also called on Hatch to participate in a TV showdown. They make the case that Utah voters deserve to not only hear the candidates, but to see them side by side.

Team Hatch, however, points out that the senator has already participated in two debates this cycle, prior to the state's party convention in April.

"The question of us not doing a debate is a moot point," Hatch's communications director Evelyn Call told CNN. She added the radio debate was "more than adequate" for the purpose of their campaign, arguing Hatch has been meeting with voters on a regular basis.

"Our job is to make sure we get our message out, meet with Utahans and voters," Call said. "Our job isn't necessarily to get our opponent more press coverage."

After his "last meal" of barbeque on Saturday, however, Christensen said he'll begin his hunger strike and persist until Hatch changes his mind.

"I hope that they will see it's something I'm serious about," Christensen said.

He got the idea after reading about a student's recent hunger strike to influence the University of Minnesota-Duluth to build a gender-neutral restroom on campus. The student's protest lasted less than 24 hours before school officials caved.

Christensen, who lives in Centerville, Utah, is hoping for a similar outcome, saying he expects to get a "serious response" from Hatch within four or five days.

But Hatch's campaign said the tactic is not "going to have any kind of influence" on their decision.

"We can't control what supporters of other campaigns do," Call said.

Liljenquist's team, meanwhile, said it does not "condone or encourage a hunger strike," and Christensen, who has volunteered for the campaign, said the campaign directly asked him not to do it.

And they're not the only ones discouraging the move. Christensen, who has not consulted a doctor about his decision, says his wife is unhappy with his decision, especially as their second eldest daughter of five is set to graduate high school at the end of the month.

Standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing 331 pounds, however, Christensen says he's in good shape to handle an extended fast.

"But I've read up on what starving can do to the body, and hopefully it doesn't go that far," he said.

Describing himself as "passionate for politics," Christensen says he is known to take unusual action in the name of elections, such as volunteering to drive all over the state to campaign for those running for even the smallest of offices.

Christensen, who emphasized that he was a "sandwich guy," said he'll strictly stick to water during his strike.

"But my wife is a great cook, so I've had to ask her to dial it down a bit."

In all earnestness, though, Christensen added he's prepared to take the hunger strike as far as possible, even if that means all 38 days until the primary.

"People think there are other ways to get Sen. Hatch to debate on TV," he said. "I told them I think it's going to take some added pressure."

Filed under: 2012 • Orrin Hatch • Senate • Utah
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. dan5404

    A ridiculous decision based on extremes, but typical of people in the GOP. He's only hurting his family, because few people care about stunts to get your political wish.

    May 19, 2012 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  2. Sydnium S. Washington

    If Hatch won't change his views and his choice over debating with Mr. Ventriloquist, why bother over short notice?
    I'm not a supporter of any of the state candidate, only national with the GOP.

    May 19, 2012 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  3. Sirned

    I can't stand any of these right wing nuts but a hunger strike is a pretty good PR move to get a debate to happen...what hatch lets him starve? I don't think so

    May 19, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  4. jeff

    Go figure, an overweight white guy supporting a tea party candidate. Way to bolster stereotypes!

    May 19, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  5. Subhash Durlabhji

    Dumb. But if he wants to do it, some advice from one who knows: - you'll do fine if you drink lots of water and remain relaxed. Powerful tools like fasting should not be trivialized this way, they will lose their power.

    May 20, 2012 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  6. ct

    who cares, if he wants to starve himself to death then so be it.....

    May 20, 2012 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  7. 2020

    GOP lost its own bearing.

    May 20, 2012 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  8. jazzbanana

    This extreme behavior is uncalled for. I am from Utah. Hatch has been very clear about his message. I hope he wins. He does not need another debate. The only thing Liljenquist supporters have is a desire for new blood – and that will not accomplish what needs to be done in the senate.

    Please, Christensen, use your head.

    May 20, 2012 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  9. James A.

    Sound like this Christensen guy is a threat to his own safety. If he is still on a starvation diet after about three days, Sen. Hatch should personally send an ambulance to his resicence to have him picked up for threatening suicide.

    May 20, 2012 02:39 am at 2:39 am |
  10. nunya

    At 331 pounds, he can stand to lose a lot anyway. I just hope we don't have to hear about it every blasted night on the news.

    May 20, 2012 03:15 am at 3:15 am |
  11. u kiddingme

    Just what Moochelle ordered. A slimmer American, she is the food Czar.

    May 20, 2012 04:23 am at 4:23 am |
  12. jetty

    Term Limit, PERIOD!

    May 20, 2012 05:42 am at 5:42 am |
  13. Bob Ramos

    Tough way to lose weight but to each his own. If this motivates him to lose the excess pounds, then go for it.

    May 20, 2012 06:10 am at 6:10 am |

    Cancel the teabaggers' foodstamps.

    May 20, 2012 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  15. William

    Going on a hunger strike sounds like a two year old refusing to eat because he didn't get his way.

    May 20, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  16. drdcw

    Would be more fitting if this ample Tea Party misfit just lived on tea.

    May 20, 2012 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  17. Name s kel

    I hope the fool gets very sick, like the rest of his hate (tea) party! Hunger for a debate?? Only right wingers.

    May 20, 2012 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
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