UT Senate: Chaffetz to run against Hatch in the GOP primary?

We may have our first high-profile primary against an incumbent for next year’s election. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican currently serving in his second term, has indicated that he will run against Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) next year:

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz has told several Utah political insiders that he plans to run against Sen. Orrin Hatch next year, setting up a major intraparty Republican 2012 battle.

All eyes have been on the second-term congressman for months. But five Utah politicos, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Chaffetz has told them directly in recent weeks that he will contend for the Republican nomination.

Chaffetz said Tuesday that he’s not making any official announcement yet, but he is moving toward a Hatch challenge.

“I have an increasing clarity,” Chaffetz said. “Until I walk up to the microphone to make an announcement, it’s not official. But it’s no secret I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve been gravitating in that direction.”

Hatch’s campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said he has heard that Chaffetz has made some calls to tell people he would get in, but hasn’t heard anything definitive.

While Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who was elected last year with tea party support, has not endorsed Hatch for re-election, the Club for Growth made it very clear yesterday that they would get behind Chaffetz; noting Hatch’s inconsistent record on economic issues:

[On Tuesday], the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) is strongly considering challenging Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in next year’s Republican primary. Today, the Club for Growth PAC urged Congressman Chaffetz to go for it.

“Run, Jason, Run!” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “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. Senator Hatch deserves recognition for his lengthy service to our country, and his leadership on some important issues. However, Senator Hatch has frequently supported policies that have grown government, burdened our economy, and taken America in the wrong direction. Fiscal conservatives can do better. If Congressman Chaffetz decides to run for the U.S. Senate, he will have the full support of the Club for Growth PAC and our 55,000 members.”

Senator Hatch has a lower lifetime score on the Club for Growth’s Scorecard (74%) than former Utah Senator Robert Bennett (77%), who was opposed by the Club for Growth PAC in 2010.

Senator Hatch’s record includes:
• Voted YES on TARP (RCV #213, 2008)
• Voted YES to increase the debt limit at least five times (RCV #354, 2007; RCV #54, 2006; RCV #213, 2004; RCV #202, 2003; RCV #148, 2002)
• Voted YES to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (RCV #157, 2008)
• Voted YES on SCHIP (RCV #353, 2007) • Voted NO on defunding the Bridge to Nowhere (RCV #262, 2005), and supported billions of dollars in other wasteful earmark spending.
• Voted YES on the Medicare drug benefit (RCV #459, 2003)
• Voted YES on No Child Left Behind (RCV #371, 2001)

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) failed to receive enough support during the Utah Republican Party’s convention last year to even make it to a runoff against his challengers, which included now-Sen. Mike Lee. The Club for Growth didn’t express support for Lee or Tim Bridgewater, but they actively opposed Bennett’s re-nomination.

Hatch has insisted that he is “no Bob Bennett” and has picked up support - or at least a promise not to support a primary challenger - from the Tea Party Express. The group call Hatch an “original tea partier”; a distinction that the Club for Growth took issue with.

Chaffetz recently voted against reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, he has spoken against the aggressive pat downs and full-body scanners being employed by the TSA, out of control government salaries and significant spending cuts. Hatch, however, has supported bailouts, entitlements and out of control spending.

Hatch is right. He isn’t Bennett; but he still could lose in 2012.

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