Utah senator faces caucus challenge from Tea Party candidates

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By Debbie Hummel, Reuters.com

Seeking one last term, Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch is facing what may prove to be the toughest re-election of his 36-year tenure in Thursday’s Utah Republican caucus against two popular younger Tea Party-backed candidates.

Conservative and heavily Republican Utah last elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate more than four decades ago, so the Republican nominee is usually considered the presumptive winner of the general election in November.

For a senior stalwart of the Republican mainstream like Hatch, the ranking Republican on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, the Senate seat has long been regarded as his to lose. He was first elected in 1976 and turns 78 next week.

But former state Senator Dan Liljenquist, 37, and state Representative Chris Herrod, 46, are running this year against Hatch, saying now is the time for change.

Both have gained a strong following from the conservative Tea Party movement with campaign rhetoric focused on such themes such as reducing the size of government and lowering taxes. They have suggested Hatch’s principles have been compromised by his lengthy tenure as part of the inside-the-Beltway establishment.

“It’s time for a new generation to step up and lead,” Liljenquist said in a recent interview. “Washington will not be changed from the inside.”

To read more, visit:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/14/us-usa-politics-utah-idUSBRE82D0Z020120314

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