Mia Love gets nomination; Hatch, Liljenquist head to primary

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SANDY — Utah Republicans fell in love with one congressional candidate and waged a nasty battle over another one at the GOP state convention Saturday.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love won the hearts and minds of delegates at the state GOP convention, and secured the party's nomination for the 4th Congressional District seat in the process.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love easily defeated former state lawmaker Carl Wimmer for the 4th District nomination.

And pilot and author Chris Stewart fought his way to the nomination in the 2nd District amid accusations he was a "bald-faced liar" over confusing allegations about backroom dealings.

Neither will face a primary election.

Love fired up the nearly 4,000 delegates at the South Towne Expo Center more than any candidate all day with an impassioned speech aimed at Washington in general and Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson specifically.

"Jim Matheson should be pretty scared right now. We're going to send him home. It's time," Love said after winning 70.5 percent of the delegate vote over former state legislator Carl Wimmer in the second round of voting. Candidates Stephen Sandstrom, Jay Cobb and Kenneth Gray were eliminated after the first ballot.

"He's never been up against a candidate like me," she said, extolling her record as mayor. But that's not all that sets her apart.

"I know where you're trying to go with that. Let's just be honest here. Saratoga Springs doesn't have the best bond rating because I'm black and female. That didn't happen. It's because of the policies we put in place."


Matheson dismissed Love's tough talk. "I don't think that's what this is about. I actually have a lot of confidence," he said late Saturday. "From what I've seen from my opponent, she is way out there on some of her positions."

And not all Republicans were enamored of Love, at least in the heat of the moment.

In introducing Wimmer before the second round of voting with Love, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said the party needs a leader not a "novelty."

Afterward, Shurtleff said it was a terrible choice of words and "it breaks my heart." He said he apologized to Love.

Love declined to comment on Shurtleff's remark. "It's time for us to start uniting as Republicans all together, to get something done," she said.

In the 1st Congressional Disitrict, Rob Bishop easily won the nomination over two challengers; same for Rep. Jason Chaffetz in the 3rd District.

Hatch heads to first primary in more than 30 years

Sen. Orrin Hatch fell just shy of winning the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, forcing him into a primary election for the first time since his first election in 1976.

"I consider it a tremendous victory after what has happened in the past and what we have had to do," he said.

Former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist also counts his showing against the six-term senator a win.

"Delegates cannot be bought," he said. "When you get out in front of people and explain the vision we have for this country, they buy in. This a great day for us."

Hatch recieved 59.2 percent of delegate vote to Liljenquist's 40.8 percent after two rounds of voting at the state GOP convention Saturday at the South Towne Expo Center. Candidates need 60 percent to win the party nomination outright. Eight other candidates did not advance after the first ballot.


The winner of the June 26 primary will face former state Sen. Scott Howell, who bested Pete Ashdown at the state Democratic Party convention Saturday.

Howell, who entered the race only 30 days ago, said he believes moderate Republicans and Democrats will join together to defeat the eventual Republican candidate. He lost to Hatch in 2000.

FreedomWorks, a tea party PAC based in Washington, D.C., mounted a "Retire Hatch" campaign last year, and has spent $700,000 on that effort so far.

"We're pleased 40 percent chose principle over power," said Russ Walker, FreedomWorks vice president of political and grassroots campaigns.

"Now it's on," he said. "It becomes the 'let's elect Dan Liljenquist campaign.'"

Ogden resident Audrey Tibbitts said she was undecided when she was elected a state delegate last month. She said she heard "strong anybody-but-Hatch" sentiment as she vetted candidates. She ultimately gravitated to Liljenquist because of his energy and business experience.

But "I really wanted a primary. I just want to see them both get their message out," Tibbitts said.

Despite his 36 years in the Senate and his multimillion campaign war chest, Hatch seemed to be playing the underdog.

”Just a few months ago, nobody was going to give me a chance,” he said. But the senator declined to answer questions comparing his experience to that of former Sen. Bob Bennett two years ago. Delegates booted Bennett at the 2010 convention.

Hatch sounded determined when asked about the upcoming primary. “There’s no question, experience counts,” Hatch said, adding he has faith that Utah voters understand that.

Liljenquist considers Hatch's longevity and experience overrated.

"Seniority does not matter unless you're actually able to change the course of the country and actually get bills passed," he said. "I have never bought into the seniority argument here in the state and I won't buy into it there."

Liljenquist said it's time for a new generation of leaders. "We know it to our bones," he said. "The Senate is changing."

"Now it's on," he said. "It becomes the 'let's elect Dan Liljenquist campaign.'" -- Russ Walker, Freedomworks

Calling himself a "tough old bird," Hatch told delegates he's never been more eager or energized to be a force for change.

"It will be my last six years in the U.S. Senate, but they'll be the best six years, and the most critical six years of all," the 78-year-old senator said.

Hatch said he is going to be the next chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. "But let me tell you this: I'm not impressed by just the title. But believe me when I say that a strong and experienced chairman can make all the difference in the world."

Republicans would have to win a majority in the Senate in November for Hatch to get that position.

The six-term senator also said he will make sure Hill Air Force Base remains open. "Anybody who thinks we don't have to hold on to Hill Air Force Base every year I've been there is foolish," he said.

Liljenquist attacked Hatch on his campaign pitch that if re-elected he would become chairman of the Finance Committee. Hatch, he said, made the same arguments in 2000 and 2006.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, can get that position if Hatch isn't reelected, Liljenquist said, noting Crapo is a BYU graduate and true conservative.

Liljenquist called Hatch's claim that Hill would close without him offensive.

"No one senator is too big to fail. No one senator is too big to lose," he said.

Attorney General candidates head to primary

The two Republican candidates for Utah attorney general will also square off in a primary election.

I have learned how to fight in the courtroom, in the Legislature and in the attorney general's office.

–- John Swallow

Assistant attorney general John Swallow received 54.5 percent and corporate and trial lawyer Sean Reyes received 45.5 percent of the votes from delegates at the state GOP convention Saturday.

Swallow said he would lead the fight for public lands in Utah, to curb illegal immigration and to defeat Obamacare.

"I have learned how to fight in the courtroom, in the Legislature and in the attorney general's office," Swallow told delegates.

He called himself a leader with vision. "A leader doesn't want to be something. A leader wants to do something," Swallow said.

Reyes said he, too, would fight for Utah on those same issues. He said he would return the attorney general's office to a law office "of and for the people" that is not unduly influenced by lobbyists or a political agenda.

"While politics has a role there, it should be secondary to the law and the people," Reyes said.

The winner of the June primary faces Democratic Weber County Attorney Dee Smith in November.


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Dennis Romboy


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