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Hatch and Liljenquist Head to Primary for GOP Senate Nomination

Bob Nelson
U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch addresses GOP delegates at the Utah Republican State Convention.

By Terry Gildea

Sandy, UT – U-S Senator Orrin Hatch will face off in a primary with Republican challenger Dan Liljenquist. Neither candidate was able to get the votes needed to grab the nomination Saturday at the Utah GOP Convention.

Ten candidates courted Republican delegates for their votes at the convention among them was incumbent Orrin Hatch who was asking voters to put their confidence in him one more time for a seventh term.

"This is my last campaign, but it's not the end. 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. It's Utah's time to lead," said Hatch.

If Hatch is re-elected and Republicans gain a majority in the Senate, the incumbent says he will be elected Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, but his opponent Dan Liljenquist ran on a platform of change in the Senate.

"Since 2005 there have been 49 new senators elected and there are 10 more retiring this year. There is a youth movement in the Senate and it is happening right now. These are the new generation of leaders we desperately need and I want to be there with them," said Liljenquist.

Sixty percent of the vote is required to be nominated without a primary vote. Hatch received 57 percent in the first round and 59 percent in the second round, while Liljenquist tied up 40 percent in the second round, ensuring both candidates will face off in a primary. Tim Thurman is a delegate from Orem and Liljenquist supporter. He says just enough delegates threw their support behind Liljenquist in the second round.

"I tried to get a lot my fellow delegates that were sitting around me to understand that we need to let the entire state of Utah have a decision of whether to keep Senator Hatch or to replace him with somebody else. And a lot of people decided that that was fair and right to let the state decide not just delegates and pass Senator Hatch," said Tim Thurman.

After the second vote, Liljenquist and his supporters were celebrating.

"Senator Hatch in 1976 got a primary and he wasn't supposed to win either. It's time for Utah to have a choice and for the first time in 36 years we're taking him to a primary. We feel good about our chances," said Liljenquist.

Hatch is confident he will win the primary, but he's concerned the extended fight will take him away from other obligations he has with the Republican party.

"Had I been freed up I would do an awful lot for Mitt Romney. I'm vice-chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. I've raised millions of dollars for our colleagues. We have nine races that we can win, that literally are there. And it's apparent that I'm not going to be able to do quite the travel for them that I would do. But if Mitt calls on me, I'll do it," said Hatch.

Both candidates will now take their messages to Republican voters across Utah. The primary is scheduled for June 26.

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