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Tea Party group organizes 'Retire Orrin Hatch' campaign

Tea Party group organizes 'Retire Orrin Hatch' campaign

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SALT LAKE CITY -- After more than 30 years as Utah's longest-termed senator, Orrin Hatch may be fighting for his life in the 2012 congressional election.

Recently, the conservative group FreedomWorks -- a Tea Party aligned organization -- announced they would launch a "Retire Orrin Hatch" campaign this weekend in an attempt to end the six-term reign of Hatch's service over Utah. The campaign is the group's first major attack for the 2012 congressional cycle.

A similar attack was declared against former senator Robert Bennett in 2010. Tea Party favorite Mike Lee won the election as a result.

The organization said they have targeted Hatch because of his moderate platform in Congress, particularly his history on voting for Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) legislation and his vote against a ban on earmarks and raising the debt ceiling.

The bottom line is Hatch doesn't represent the state of Utah. The state of Utah is far more fiscally conservative than Orrin Hatch is. It's an opportunity to pick up a seat, it's an opportunity to find somebody who is better.

–Russ Walker

"The bottom line is Hatch doesn't represent the state of Utah," said Russ Walker, vice president of political and grassroots campaigns for FreedomWorks. "The state of Utah is far more fiscally conservative than Orrin Hatch is. It's an opportunity to pick up a seat, it's an opportunity to find somebody who is better."

But the organization's campaign did not sit well with conservative talk show radio host Mark Levin, who called out FreedomWorks chair Dick Armey, saying: "This is what happens when decisions are run out of offices in Washington. The Tea Party movement is a grassroots movement."

Levin went on to question the group's assault given Armey's positions as a former member of Congress: "Armey had a radical, open- borders, pro- amnesty position record in Congress and has recently endorsed that position as head of FreedomWorks. Do most Tea Party activists agree? Of course not."

But the Tea Party's disapproval of Hatch is not without some merit. Since joining the senate in 1976, Hatch has been known to pander to the left, joining with key Democrats on issues fundamentally contrary to the Republican base.

But Hatch's campaign manager, Dave Hansen, says it makes no sense to him that a conservative group is campaigning to remove a conservative Senator. "Why are they targeting a guy that been a conservative senator since he's been elected," Hansen said. When he was elected may be one of the key problems.

Many have condemned Hatch for his lengthy tenure in the senate, despite his early call to be in office for a maximum of two terms.

During his bid for a seat in the senate in 1976, Hatch attacked incumbent Frank Moss for his lengthy stay in Congress, saying: "What do you call a Senator who's served in office for 18 years? You call him home."

Now, after nearly doubling Moss's service, Hatch is fighting off criticism from opponents who want a fresh face in Washington. Included in the rumored 2012 congressional pool are Rep. Jason Chaffetz and state Sen. Dan Lijenquist of Bountiful.

Although FreedomWorks has yet to back a candidate to replace Hatch, Chaffetz trends well with members of the Tea Party and would likely receive tremendous support in his efforts.

He's been a good senator for the most part. I just think, conceptually, most people are opposed to 42 years of contiguous service.

–Jason Chaffetz

"He's been a good senator for the most part," Chaffetz said. "I just think, conceptually, most people are opposed to 42 years of contiguous service."

Because of his extended stay in Congress, Hatch has provided the state of Utah with several benefits, including federal funding for the massive construction overall of Utah roads prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics, to say the least about his service.

"God bless Orrin Hatch for his decades of service. He's boosted the state's reputation," Liljenquist said. "But I'm looking for leadership on lowering the debt and entitlement reforms, and I don't believe he can provide it."

Recently, Hatch attempted to shift his political motives more to the right in an attempt to secure another term in office, including removing his name from an immigration bill that would allow individuals to become U.S. residents after two years of college or military service.

Additionally, Hatch reportedly attempted to hire key Tea Party workers for his staff to help his chances in 2012.

Darcy Van Orden, one of the Tea Party leaders sought by the Hatch campaign, told the Associated Press, "I find it a little disturbing that Hatch thinks he can buy this election by handing out jobs right and left.

However, Hatch's campaign manager, David Hansen, disagrees with Van Orden's statement, saying, individuals were sought after without regard to party affiliation. "Some of them were (hired), but it was primarily because they are good at what they do. They were good campaign workers and campaign organizers."

In the end, Hatch has an uphill battle ahead of him to secure his Republican base, particularly with so many people calling him home.

But Hansen says he's confident in Hatch's campaign.


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Josh Furlong


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