Veteran Hatch Gets Challenger; One-Term State Legislator Enters GOP Senate Primary

Article excerpt

Byline: Valerie Richardson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

For all the talk of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch's political vulnerability, the veteran Utah Republican had managed to deflect all serious challengers until Wednesday, when state Sen. Dan Liljenquist entered the primary race.

Mr. Liljenquist immediately positioned himself for a run to the right of Mr. Hatch, who is seeking his seventh term but has fallen out of favor with some conservatives for what they see as his record of voting to expand government.

Washington, D.C., is broken and some of our own Republican lawmakers share in the blame, Mr. Liljenquist said Wednesday in a statement. It's time for new conservative ideas from those who have the energy to see them through.

In his short legislative career, Mr. Liljenquist took on entitlement reform as his central issue. He won national kudos for his efforts to reform the state's pension and Medicaid programs - FreedomWorks gave him its Legislative Entrepreneur of the Year Award for reforms that serve as a model for states across the country.

His campaign theme, It's time, is a not-so-veiled reference to the 77-year-old Mr. Hatch's lengthy tenure in office. Seeking his seventh term, Mr. Hatch began serving in the Senate when Mr. Liljenquist, 37, was 1 year old.

The Hatch campaign was quick to point out that with age comes experience. A relative political newcomer, Mr. Liljenquist was elected to his first term in the state legislature in 2008. He resigned in December, prompting speculation that he would launch a U.S. Senate bid.

It is perplexing to me why a state Senator who hasn't even finished his first term of service in the state and running on the platform of entitlement reform would want to challenge Senator Hatch, Hatch campaign manager David Hansen said in a statement.

He also emphasized Mr. Hatch's seniority and its attending benefits to Utah, especially if Republicans capture the Senate in 2012.

Senator Hatch will be in the best position as Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, to ensure these critical reforms happen and will be instrumental in getting our nation's fiscal house in order, Mr. Hansen said. Dan Liljenquist's mantra on entitlement reforms would be little more than a flimsy campaign promise made by someone who would be positioned on a committee that has no influence over fiscal policy. …