(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.