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Senator Hatch Dominates Republican Caucuses

Senator Orrin Hatch

By Andrea Smardon

Salt Lake City, UT – Precinct Chair Clay Christensen has been hosting caucuses in his South Jordan livingroom for more than a decade. This year, they were in the Elk Ridge Middle School cafeteria, but Christensen was not quite prepared for the number of people who showed up.

"I'm a little bit overwhelmed, I'm kind of glad we're not having it our livingroom. You'd be welcome there, you just wouldn't fit," said Christensen.

More than 100 people from Christensen's precinct were there. He didn't have enough paper ballots for all of them, and had to resort to voting by a show of hands. Many people said they were there for the first time and were interested in the presidential race. Some were interested in the races for Governor and for Congress. But by far, the biggest issue that delegates talked about was the race for US Senate. Ralph Hawes was nominated as a delegate, and he said it was the most critical issue this year.

"I'm going to support Orrin Hatch. Hopefully, hopefully, the Republicans will take over the Senate. If that happens, Senator Hatch will be maybe one of the two most powerful Senators in the country. He'll chair the Senate Finance committee. And we need him there for the state of Utah as well as our country," said Hawes.

In Provo, delegate David Lindsey told caucus-goers that Hatch had been in office too long.

"I'm a big believer in term limits," said Lindsey, "and I think that we need term limits in Congress and in Senate. So I'm more leaning towards that. That's what I said to all of the precinct members tonight."

Then there were some who didn't want to name any names like Steve Hodnet in South Jordan.

"I'm not pledged to any particular candidate," said Hodnet, " I'm not here to be for or against any sitting incumbents. I'm here to ask for those who represent the people to stick to conservative principles. There are incumbents that are going to have to answer why they increased our deficit 7 trillion dollars. That doesn't mean I'm not going to vote for them."

The prevailing sentiment of delegates elected across the state seems to be supportive of Hatch. Holly Richardson is the campaign manager for Senate candidate Dan Liljenquist, and she is disappointed.

"We were surprised at how strong their presence was," said Richardson, "They did a very good job of organizing, and getting out. We knew they were working hard. So were we. I would say overall the Hatch campaign should could tonight as a victory. They did very well."

Hatch's campaign manager Dave Hansen says the high turnout helped.

"A broader range of people from the state I think was very helpful to the Senator. What we've found in our polling is when you get to the broader areas of the state, the Senator does very well. The more people you get involved in it, the better he does," said Hansen.

Now the candidates will be focusing their efforts on face time with the 4000 delegates elected until the state convention on April 21st.

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