Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dan Liljenquist Announces Candidacy Against Senator Orrin Hatch

Dan Liljenquist, Republican challenger to Orrin Hatch
This past week brought a long-anticipated announcement that former Republican Senator in the Utah Senate, Dan Liljenquist, would run for the U.S. Senate in Utah, challenging the aged one, six-term Senator Orrin Hatch, who will be 78 years old on election day 2012.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
For 36 years, almost half his life, Hatch has represented Utah. I am personally grateful for his service (more on that later), but enough is enough.

It's just the kind of David vs. Goliath political match-up needed to tantalize the voters and should assure a large turnout for the Utah caucuses coming up on March 15, 2012. Liljenquist, 37, similarly youthful as Senator Mike Lee, has won the hearts and minds of tea party groups who are disenchanted with Hatch. The reason they are excited about Dan's candidacy is they notched a victory in knocking off Bob Bennett two years ago, and now hope an encore performance may be in the wings for retiring Hatch. I have said before I do not believe all the hype that the tea party was solely responsible for Bennett's defeat, because I believe other moderates like me had a hand in it, but a victory is a victory no matter who takes credit for it.

Liljenquist stated, when he announced he was resigning his local senate seat to challenge Hatch, he would focus his campaign on reducing the nation's debt. He said Washington is broken and that some GOP lawmakers share in the blame. Hatch, of course, would counter he wants to do the same. His record says otherwise, however, despite his efforts to sponsor a balanced budget amendment on several occasions in the past. Hatch's long voting record includes support for TARP, which he later admitted he regretted when he sensed he had angered conservatives.

Dan Liljenquist is a name most Utahns have never heard before, but he has received national recognition for his work to overhaul Medicaid and the state's pension system for public employees, two critical and demanding issues begging for solutions. "Even counting for inflation, 36 years is enough," Liljenquist said Wednesday in announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate. "Service in Congress was never meant to be a lifetime appointment. In the the military there's an adage that says, 'Be brief, be brilliant and be gone.'"

Hatch will say he is "not Bob Bennett." He's been quietly offering cash to potential state delegates to work for his campaign, up to $2500 per month. It's perfectly legal, just unsavory because it smacks of buying delegate votes. A good question to ask those who support Hatch at the caucuses would be, "How much is his campaign paying you to run as a delegate to the state convention?" He's done an unprecedented outreach to conservative groups like the tea party activists to assure them of his conservative credentials. Knowing how to organize is the main strength of his long-time friend and campaign manager, former state Republican party chairman, Dave Hansen. But all of it will not be enough this time around.

I have no argument with Hatch's conservative creds. My problem is his age. It's simply time for him to turn the page and retire. If he can't seem to make that decision on his own, it is my wish to get re-elected as a state delegate from my precinct and help him find the exit door.

Hatch's campaign war chest is even larger than Bennett's. He has more than $4 million in the bank based upon his latest filings. Other potential challengers, Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz and Democratic Representative Jim Matheson, both avoided a head-to-head battle with Hatch and decided to keep their powder dry in Congress, rather than to challenge him.

Liljenquist will have to embrace the help of conservative groups with strong ties to the tea party. FreedomWorks hinted last month it will support the Liljenquist bid, when it named him the organization's "legislative entrepreneur of the year."

In my estimation Hatch is making the same calculated error in judgment that Bennett did last year. Historically, I have not had issues with either of their conservative stripes. They are both "conservative enough" for my taste. I voted three times in the past for Bennett, then backed Mike Lee. This cycle I've voted six times in the past for Hatch, and this time I will back Dan Liljenquist, with the possible proviso that I will reserve an "endorsement" if someone else I like better enters the race.

Chris Herrod
Utah State Representative Chris Herrod announced yesterday he would run also, but he's not going to get as much traction as Liljenquist in my opinion. The danger at convention is they might split the vote in preventing Hatch from getting 60% of the vote out of convention and avoiding a primary. On the other hand, they could combine against Hatch, eliminate him as happened last time with Bennett and set up a primary between the two of them. The politics of our two former Utah senators are not the problem with me as much as their audacity to think they are irreplaceable. In Hatch's case, his certainty approaches infinity.

I have personal affection for Senator Hatch, because he advocated for me and my colleagues through a legislative fight on Capitol Hill he believed in and helped us win. I'll spare you all the details, but in an act of defiance against a piece of ill-conceived legislation requiring a 100% excise tax on charity-owned life insurance, he took on Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and personally walked a "colloquy" I had written in support of our position onto the Senate floor at 1:30 a.m. in the morning and had it entered into the Congressional record. But for his heroics on our behalf, a bad proposal by Grassley's chief of staff would undoubtedly have been passed into law.

So my problem, once again, is not about Hatch personally or politically. It is simply his age and longevity. In my presence on one of many trips to Washington, I heard him say he was going after Strom Thurmond's record for longevity in the U.S. Senate, a dubious reason to stand for re-election in my heart and mind (and that was the last time he ran, not this cycle). Actually, Byrd and Inouye served longer than Thurmond, but at the time he was the longest-tenured. By re-electing Hatch for a seventh term, Utahns would place Hatch high up in the rankings of longest serving senators, making him 84 years old at the end of his next term. For me that's just a bridge too far.

Like the aging prize fighter who thinks he can get keep getting back into the ring for one more big pay day, Bennett and now Hatch seem to lack the grace and good judgment to read the tea leaves (pun intentional), stand aside and make way for the younger generation. They both believed in their hearts they were indispensable to the citizens of Utah, the nation and the world. You can add the universe too if you like.

Between now and the March 15th caucus night in Utah you will hear that Hatch's experience and his pending (assuming Republican control of the Senate can be achieved) chairmanship in the Senate Finance Committee will be needed to get America back on track and that no one else is as well-equipped to get the job done as Orrin Hatch. The same argument was made for Bennett, who had only served half as long (three terms and eighteen years) as Hatch. The irony is that Hatch unseated Frank Moss to win his seat originally, saying no one should become a career politician. Setting the agenda in even a powerful committee is not as "powerful" as one might suppose. Each senator, after all is said and done, has only one vote to cast on every single measure that comes before him/her. And the argument that this is no time for "rookies" flies in the face of not understanding the upheaval that will almost certainly carry over from the 2010 uprising across America. In my judgment this is the perfect time for rookies, as many of the old guard in both houses of Congress voluntarily made a decision to bow out, take their campaign war chests with them and return home before they lost. But not Hatch. Damn the torpedoes, he would say, and full steam ahead to victory!

In this presidential election year nationwide the ballots cast for POTUS will not be as important as the ones cast for the 33 Senate seats in play. If the majority of those seats can be won by conservative Republicans who can gain control of the Senate and remove the old guard this time around, a Senate majority of new faces sent BY THE PEOPLE to stop the Marxist Obama dictatorship agenda once and for all will go a long way to restoring Constitutional principles.

We made a mistake in 2008 as a country. We elected a smooth talker with a personality. We hoped for change. He promised "hope and change." He passed the largest socialist program in the history of entitlements, Obamacare, and he borrowed more money than ALL the former U.S. Presidents COMBINED! Our national debt now stands north of $15,200,000,000,000 and rising fast. The interest on the debt now stands at $1,500,000,000 per day (yes, billion)! Then-Senator Barack Obama once accused George W. Bush of being "irresponsible" for raising the debt ceiling, calling that request a "failure of leadership," and now has demanded and passed record stimulus spending bills that have done little to stimulate the economy. He continues to cry for more debt and more spending when we're bleeding at every fiscal pore. And that's "responsible" leadership?

He sent Navy Seal Team 6 to Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden. This last week he proposed slashing the Defense Department spending to the bone, and ended the war in Iraq to bring home the troops. He takes credit for it, but the proposed withdrawal timetable was already set by the Bush administration before he took office, and the intel on the whereabouts of bin Laden was gleaned through enhanced interrogation techniques advocated by the Bush administration. Boldest of all, he now is "working around" Congress while it's out of session (or is it really "in" session - only Obama can tell us apparently) to appoint even more "czars" to head up regulatory commissions as far as the eye can see, emboldening his followers for a government-run economy that purports to be the solution to every societal ill we face. He is trashing the Constitution daily.

But I digress, this post is about our future and my sincere wish is that the future does not include another four-year term for Barack Obama. Elections are about the future, we must remember, not about the past. Obama is positioning himself to "win the future," but his idea about what that looks like is very different than mine and yours. I was told the other day that an in-law "hated" me because of my conservative positions, so I should not speak for everyone I know. As I have said before, I am not as much concerned about who wins the presidency as I am about putting an end to Congressional gridlock. Without a victory in the Senate that gives a majority to conservatives, not the old guard RINOs who have gone along to get along for too long in this country, we are doomed to continue down this path of fiscal insanity.

I'm not certain at all that we can reverse course in America at this late date, but I am certain we must try by retiring the old guard and beginning afresh. That begins with electing new conservative senators who are more responsive to the people like Dan Liljenquist. My hope is he will join Mike Lee and others in taking control of the U.S. Senate and partnering with the House in passing a balanced budget amendment, repealing Obamacare and never again flirting with the European socialist agenda for an entitlement society.

In my considered judgment Dan Liljenquist is better equipped to do that than Orrin Hatch.

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