NPR logo Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch Staves Off Tea Party Ire, Still Draws Primary Challenger


Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch Staves Off Tea Party Ire, Still Draws Primary Challenger

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ducked the fate of his former colleague, Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, and won strong support at the Utah Republican convention Saturday, but it wasn't quite enough to win the GOP nomination outright.

The six-term Utah senator needed 60 percent of convention delegates' votes to win: he got 59 percent. That means he'll compete on the Republican primary ballot June 26, against former state senator Dan Liljenquist for the Republican nomination and the chance to take on a Democratic opponent in the fall election.

Hatch hasn't gone to a primary since 1976, according to Deseret News.

This may all seem very ordinary, but Hatch faced Tea Party activists who'd demonstrated their power in 2010 by ousting Bennett, a longtime senator. NPR's Howard Berkes says Hatch sees today's vote as a victory:

"Bob Bennett was unseated at this very convention in a Tea Party revolt. The same people who targeted Bob Bennett also targeted Orrin Hatch. So (Hatch) wasn't sure he would even get out of the convention, and to a primary."

Hatch spent millions of dollars over the past year to campaign against eight other challengers and "outside groups seeking his ouster", according to CNN. He highlighted his experience and seniority on the Senate Finance Committee; should the GOP retake the Senate, Hatch is in line to become chairman.

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Democrats also held their convention today. Former Democratic state Sen. Scott Howell won the nomination for the U.S. Senate, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.