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SALT LAKE CITY — Former state senator Scott Howell was selected the Utah Democratic Party's candidate for U.S. Senate Saturday. He will face Republican incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch or former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, who will face off in a primary.
Howell won on the first round of voting by convention delegates, garnering 63 percent of the vote over challenger Pete Ashdown.
Howell, who said he had only been in the race 30 days, believes moderate Republicans and Democrats will join together to defeat the eventual Republican candidate.
In their speeches to delegates, both Howell and Ashdown assumed the GOP opponent would be Hatch, who was less than one percent shy of the 60 percent needed to avoid a GOP primary.
Howell told a small gathering of delegates that he can commit fulltime to campaigning against Utah's senior senator. "You cannot be a part-time candidate when you're running against Orrin Hatch." Howell made the remark before knowing the outcome of the GOP convention race.
In his convention speech, Ashdown said he believes his campaign would be effective against Orrin Hatch because it is "appealing on a national basis."
Hatch's races have been largely funded by special interests, which is an affront to most Americans, he said.
"I think he's an example of everything I'm fighting against," he said.
Earlier Saturday, Democratic National Committee member and former Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch remarked on Hatch's long tenure in the Senate. Recently, he said, as someone was clearing out an old desk once occupied by Hatch, he "found the actual stagecoach ticket he used to come here from Pittsburgh."
Three Congressional candidates chosen, more to go to primary
Utah Democratic delegates also whittled down candidates in three congressional races during the convention, selecting three candidates outright.
I'm disappointed at having a primary, I'm not going to deny that. Primaries consume a lot of financial and human resources.
–- Donna McAleer
Candidates in the 1st Congressional District, however, will face off in a primary election, after neither received 60 percent of the vote in a second round of balloting. That outcome was fairly surprising because candidate Donna McAleer had won 59.5 percent of the vote in the first round of balloting.
In second go-round, McAleer's support dropped to 50.75 percent, to Ryan Combe's 49.25 percent.
"I'm disappointed at having a primary, I'm not going to deny that. Primaries consume a lot of financial and human resources," she said. McAleer, a West Point graduate, has worked as a corporate vice president, run a nonprofit organization and is a published author.
Combe, director of marketing for Weber State University, attributed the final outcome to "people voting their hearts."
Meanwhile, in the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts, delegates selected former state lawmaker Jay Seegmiller and Salt Lake City council chairman Soren Simonsen, respectively, as the party's candidates in those districts.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, who was unopposed, was nominated to run in the 4th Congressional District.
In the party's lone contested legislative race, incumbent Rep. Christine Watkins, D-Price, defeated challenger Stanley Larson.