Hatch and Liljenquist battle it out before state convention

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SALT LAKE CITY — As elections heat up in Utah, the race for the U.S. Senate seat is one to watch, with incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch looking to hold on to his seat at Saturday's state Republican convention.

Senator Hatch faces a serious challenge from within his own party, with several candidates looking to oust the longtime senator from elected office. However, according to recent poll numbers, Hatch is doing well, but he's not taking that for granted. And he plans on doing it one small group of delegates at a time.

"I remember a year ago, a lot of people thought this might be a repeat of 2010," Senator Hatch said. "And there was every reason to think that seems to me."

Hatch said a selling point for him is his 36 years in the U.S. Senate. Experience, he added, will pay off, when it comes to fighting for Hill Air Force Base and as Chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

"We've run all over Utah," Hatch said. ‘I've gone to basically every county, I've gone to a high percentage of county conventions, held town hall meetings, held delegate meetings."

But it is that seniority that former State Senator Dan Liljenquist is running against.

We need new leaders back there who actually have the skills and ability and have trained in how to turn around complex financial issues. That's what I've done in my career.

–Dan Liljenquist

"To be candid, I'm running because he could be chairman of the Senate Finance Committee," Liljenquist said.

Delegates, however, are scrutinizing Liljenquist, with some willing to trade political experience for business experience.

"We need new leaders back there who actually have the skills and ability and have trained in how to turn around complex financial issues," Liljenquist said. "That's what I've done in my career."

Liljenquist said he is able to woo delegates when he meets them in person, but Hatch is saying the same thing.

A poll of Utah delegates from the Utah Foundation shows Hatch with a considerable lead (61 percent) over all opponents, including Liljenquist, going into Saturday's convention. But many delegates indicate their final decision has not been made.

"This is a tough one," said delegate Becky Stahle. "I think there are pros and cons on both sides, and I haven't decided."

"The leaning has been toward Hatch based on seniority, and based on possible chairmanship of the Finance Committee," added delegate Dean Larsen. "But Dan is a good man."

There is a field of other candidates in the Senate race, including Chris Herrod. However, the race is widely regarded as a Hatch-Liljenquist race. Based on feedback from delegates, a preimary in this race isn't out of the question.

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Richard Piatt


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