Liljenquist rising as possible Hatch challenger

2011-09-15T00:18:00Z 2012-01-19T06:42:28Z Liljenquist rising as possible Hatch challengerBilly Hesterman - Daily Herald Daily Herald
September 15, 2011 12:18 am  • 

OREM -- State Sen. Dan Liljenquist, R-Bountiful, is starting to sound more and more like someone looking to challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Liljenquist left his district on Wednesday to come to Orem to speak to the Republican women on his efforts to reform the state's pension system and his work on changing how Medicaid is handled in the state.

Liljenquist, who has served in the state Senate since 2008, used the catch phrase that he is starting to be well known for "reality is not negotiable." He explained how as a freshman senator he had the vision to see problems in government and had the know-how to fix those problems to ensure the future of the state.

That message resonated with those in attendance, who said they would like to see him face off against Hatch in the 2012 election cycle.

"We want someone that isn't just going to get along with everybody in Washington," Susan Ridgeway said. "You don't compromise on principles."

Ridgeway sat at a table with three other women, all of whom said they came to hear Liljenquist speak because they hope he'll choose to run against Hatch. Liljenquist says that he has not made a final decision on whether to run or not, but did say he and his wife are taking time to review their options.

While Liljenquist mulls over his future, the Hatch team is in preparation mode for another challenge from someone within the GOP. Hatch was able to fend off a challenge from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, but the six-term senator said on Wednesday that he expects someone else will try to unseat him.

"We are prepared to overcome any kind of challenge that comes," Hatch said. "We intend to win this."

Hatch stated that he has one thing that no other candidate can bring to the table -- experience. He argued that his influence in Washington is invaluable to the state and that a newcomer won't be able to have the leverage he has in the nation's capital.

"Look, Utah will never get another chairman on the Senate finance committee," Hatch said.

Hatch is the ranking minority member of the Senate finance committee and would be made chairman of that committee if the Republicans took control of the Senate in 2012.

In addition to his experience Hatch also has a considerable advantage in name recognition. Hatch's 36 years in the Senate have made him a well-known name in Utah and in Washington, D.C. However, while Liljenquist still is relatively unknown in the state, he only needs to get the support of Republican state delegates to push Hatch out at the state GOP convention.

"Liljenquist just needs the Republican delegates in the convention," Richard Davis, a BYU political science professor, said. "That is not an impossible task."

Davis noted that Liljenquist would more than likely need to oust Hatch in the convention because a primary against him could prove to be too costly for any challenger. Davis said Liljenquist could possibly get funding from Tea Party groups if he ended up in a primary challenge with Hatch, but wasn't sure it would be enough to win.

Utah Tea Party leader David Kirkham was in attendance at the Liljenquist meeting. Kirkham noted Liljenquist is doing the types of things Tea Party Republicans are looking for in a candidate, including bringing in spending and looking to preserve government for the future. Kirkham stated he wished there were more elected officials that were like Liljenquist who look down the road and look for ways to avoid problems in the future.

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