Hatch Faces June Primary
| April 21, 2012Hatch faces Utah primary fight
By: David Catanese
SANDY, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch failed to clinch his partys nomination at the state GOP convention Saturday, ensuring a June primary against state Sen. Dan Liljenquist.
The six-term Republican incumbent fell just short of the 60 percent threshold necessary to skirt a June 26 face-off. On the second ballot, Hatch notched 59 percent of the vote to Liljenquists 41 percent.
While Hatch avoided the fate of former Sen. Bob Bennett who was denied the renomination in dramatic fashion at this convention two years ago he now enters a two-month campaign that he would have liked to avoid. In the end, Hatch fell short by fewer than 50 votes from avoiding a fight into the summer.
Hatch made his relationship with Mitt Romney and the opportunity to chair the powerful Senate Finance Committee the two central tenets of his campaign, a theme he reiterated in his convention speech.
Were going to lead with a Republican majority. And were going to work hand-in-hand with President Mitt Romney, he said. Im going to be chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Believe me when I say that a strong and experienced chairman can make all the difference in the world.
But that wasnt enough to ward off Liljenquist, who delivered a powerful convention speech and scored the endorsements of the majority of the other candidates after they were eliminated in the first round of voting.
Regardless of who the chairman is, it still takes 60 votes to get anything passed in the Senate. No senator is king no matter what seat they sit in, Liljenquist said in his convention speech. There is a youth movement in the Senate and it is happening right now. These are the new generation of leaders we desperately need and I want to be there with them.
On the first ballot, Hatch achieved 57 percent of the vote to Liljenquists 28 percent. But when Liljenquist appeared back on the convention stage to make a final appeal to the about 3,900 delegates in attendance, five of his former rivals stood behind him a symbolic gesture meant to signal their support.
With a bigger war chest and more name identification, Hatch begins the primary a strong frontrunner, but appearing with supporters afterwards, Liljenquist promised a spirited respectful campaign, one that would mirror the effort Hatch waged back in 1976 when he was first elected.
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