2 debates scheduled for Sen. Orrin Hatch, challengers Chris Herrod, Dan LiljenquistMarch 27, 2012
From: Deseret News
By: Josh Loftin
Republican delegates who will decide the fate of U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch will have two opportunities to hear the incumbent senator face off against his main challengers during debates next month.
For state Rep. Chris Herrod, the debates will provide a forum to showcase his strengths and emphasize that this campaign isn’t simply about Hatch.
“I want to show the delegates that I have the skills to be a senator, and the knowledge about the challenges facing this country,” Herrod said Thursday.
Also invited to the debates is former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, who is widely regarded as the strongest challenger to Hatch.
The first debate is scheduled for April 4 at a private Catholic school in Draper, which is about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City. The second is April 16 in St. George in southern Utah.
It is unlikely that other debates will be held between the Senate candidates before the April 21 convention, where delegates will cast their ballots for the party’s nominee. Unless a candidate receives 60 percent of the vote at the convention, the top two finishers will move to a June primary.
While details for both debates are still being worked out, the candidates all hoped the debates would be broadcast by local media or streamed online.
“The senator is doing everything he can to reach delegates, and debates are one of those things,” said Dave Hansen, campaign manager for Hatch, who is seeking a seventh term in the Senate. “I think he will do very well. This isn’t his first debate.”
Based on initial observations from all sides, Hatch had strong support among Republicans who attended caucus meetings last week and elected the 4,000 delegates who will go to the state convention. In particular, there wasn’t the anti-incumbent sentiment among attendees that was palatable in 2010 and led to the eventual ouster of former Sen. Robert Bennett.
But candidates are still optimistic about the willingness of delegates to consider challengers to Hatch, and look to the debates as a way to sway enough people to at least force Hatch into a primary.
“The high number of newly elected delegates deserve every opportunity to see the candidates in person and learn about their records,” Liljenquist said.
About a dozen other Republicans are also running, but only Hatch, Liljenquist and Herrod have been invited to the debates.