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Hatch touts experience against contenders


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Longtime incumbent Orrin Hatch is being challenged by one current and one ex-Utah lawmaker for his seat in the U.S. Senate.

But Friday, Hatch told Utah's Legislature he's "going to win." Hatch is leaving nothing to chance as he fights to keep the seat he's held since 1976, bringing a simple message to the capitol: experience matters.

"Let's just be frank about it, Hatch said. "I wouldn't run again if it wasn't for the fact I'm the Republican leader on the Senate Finance Committee -- the most powerful committee in the whole Congress."

Two GOP challengers, lawmaker Chris Herrod, a leader of the conservative Patrick Henry Caucus and former State Senator Dan Lilijenquist are nipping at Hatch's heels,

"We have a small window of opportunity to change things in this nation," Herrod said. "It needs to be done, and I don't feel the sense of urgency from Senator Hatch, that needs to be felt."

Liljenquist, who helped pass pension and Medicaid reform, when he was a state senator wants to make some change in Washington as well.

A Super PAC called ‘Freedom Path,' an outside group that's not supposed to coordinate with a campaign, is promoting Hatch and hammering Liljenquist. Meanwhile, another Super PAC, Freedom Works, affiliated with the Tea Party, is pushing to defeat Hatch.

Liljenquist and Herrod say they're running grassroots campaigns aimed at wooing state delegates -- the same group that ousted longtime senator Bob Bennett two years ago.

"As far as resources go, I believe in the caucus system," Herrod said. "They're educated, they study the issues, but someone like me can actually compete in the caucus system."

They're seeing some support for the grassroots efforts, too. According to Liljenquist, hundreds have turned out at his events.

Hatch keeps up his confidence, though.

"Things are going very well, we're working every day at it," Hatch said. "I'm a tough old bird, they're not going to push us around."

There are 4000 Republican state delegates. To win outright in this race, a candidate will need 60 percent, or 2400 delegates. If one of these candidates gets that many votes, they would win, otherwise it goes to a primary. GOP caucuses are on March 15 and the GOP convention is five weeks later.

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John Daley

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