Chaf­fetz mulls bid for Hatch’s seat in Se­nate

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

A vet­eran Utah Repub­li­can sen­a­tor faces a pri­mary chal­lenge from a young con­ser­va­tive with the back­ing of the Club for Growth. Sound fa­mil­iar?

It hap­pened in 2010 with for­mer Sen. Bob Bennett, and it looks in­creas­ingly like that the same sce­nario will play out in 2012, only this time with Sen. Or­rin G. Hatch.

Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, Utah Repub­li­can, says he’s se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing mak­ing a bid for the Utah Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion in 2012, when Mr. Hatch’s sixth term ex­pires.

“I’m a def­i­nite maybe,” said Mr. Chaf­fetz in a tele­phone in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times. “I have been think­ing about it, and I have in­creas­ing clar­ity about it. I’m def­i­nitely lean­ing to­ward it.”

Mr. Chaf­fetz said he doesn’t plan to an­nounce his de­ci­sion un­til af­ter La­bor Day, adding that, “Elec­tions are long enough al­ready.”

The 44-year-old Mr. Chaf­fetz may seem like a bit of an up­start - he’s serv­ing only his sec­ond House term af­ter work­ing pre­vi­ously as Gov. John Hunts­man Jr.’s chief of staff - but he’s al­ready won plau­dits from con­ser­va­tives as part of the young cadre of bud­get-cut­ting fis­cal hawks.

Even though noth­ing’s of­fi­cial, Mr. Chaf­fetz has been all but en­dorsed by the Club for Growth, which played a cru­cial role in the de­feat of Mr. Bennett in 2010. Club for Growth Pres­i­dent Chris Cho­cola said Wed­nes­day that if Mr. Chaf­fetz de­cides to run, he would have “the full sup­port of the Club for Growth PAC and our 55,000 mem­bers.”

Last year, the Club for Growth spent nearly $200,000 on an any­body-but-Bennett cam­paign, more than all but one of Mr. Bennett’s five pri­mary chal­lengers. Mr. Bennett ul­ti­mately fin­ished third in the pri­mary bal­lot­ing at the Repub­li­can state con­ven­tion.

For­mer As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Mike Lee won the Se­nate seat af­ter de­feat­ing busi­ness­man Tim Bridge­wa­ter in a runoff for the nom­i­na­tion.

“Run, Ja­son, run!” said Club for Growth Pres­i­dent Chris Cho­cola in a state­ment. “Con­gress­man Chaf­fetz has been a pro-growth star since en­ter­ing the House, and he’s ex­actly the type of leader we need in the United States Se­nate.”

Polls have al­ready shown Mr. Hatch, 76, trail­ing in hy­po­thet­i­cal pri­mary matchups against Mr. Chaf­fetz and Mr. Hunts­man, a for­mer am­bas­sador to China and a po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. Utah state Sen. Dan Lil­jen­quist is re­port­edly weigh­ing a run for the nom­i­na­tion as well.

Mr. Lee has point­edly de­clined to en­dorse Mr. Hatch, say­ing he wants to see the pri­mary process play out. Mr. Hatch re­ceived a rough re­cep­tion in Fe­bru­ary at the Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Com­mit­tee meet­ing, where the crowd heck­led him for his sup­port of the fed­eral TARP bailout.

Still, Mr. Hatch isn’t go­ing down with­out a fight. Con­ser­va­tives have griped for years about the sen­a­tor’s ten­dency to stray left­ward, but Mr. Hatch earned a per­fect 100 per­cent score from the Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union in 2010, bring­ing his life­time rat­ing to 89.7 per­cent.

Mr. Chaf­fetz ticked off a list of is­sues on which he dis­agrees with Mr. Hatch, in­clud­ing his sup­port for the TARP bailout, the Fred­die Mac and Fan­nie Mae bailout, No Child Left Be­hind, the in­di­vid­ual health-care man­date, and im­mi­gra­tion.

“Most of these are caus­ing the prob­lems that we’re fac­ing to­day,” said Mr. Chaf­fetz. “If you want a dif­fer­ent re­sult, you’re go­ing to have to elect dif­fer­ent peo­ple.”

Utah’s unique pri­mary nom­i­nat­ing sys­tem gives a de­cided ad­van­tage to con­ser­va­tive chal­lengers. The nom­i­nee is cho­sen by about 3,000 Repub­li­can del­e­gates, who in­evitably trend to the right and who can be reached rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sively by a lesser­known can­di­date. If no can­di­date wins 60 per­cent of the del­e­gate vote, the top two fin­ish­ers face off in a gen­eral pri­mary elec­tion.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, Utah Repub­li­can, is se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing mak­ing a bid for Sen. Or­rin G. Hatch’s Se­nate seat in 2012. Mr. Chaf­fetz has been all but en­dorsed by the Club for Growth, which helped de­feat Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010.

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