Pete Ashdown to try again to unseat Sen. Hatch

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 8 2011 4:50 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Democrat Pete Ashdown said Tuesday he's going to try again to unseat Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

"Being a Democrat in Utah means you have to be persistent," said Ashdown, 44, the founder of the Utah-based Internet company XMission.

In his last bid to unseat Hatch, Ashdown won 31 percent of the vote. He said he has about the same chance of beating the six-term senator this time, but still feels a need to try.

"I still believe what I talked about in 2006 in my campaign, about a way to use technology and the Internet to bring transparency to Washington," Ashdown said.

For example, he said, the calendars of elected officials should be published online to give their constituents a better idea of who may be impacting the decisions being made.

"I believe that's what most people are concerned about. I believe it's what I can most make an impact on," he said. "One thing occupy and the tea party share in common, is there is concern where the influence is coming from in Washington."

Ashdown discounts Hatch's claim that he should be returned to the Senate because the GOP is expected to regain control in the next election, putting him in position to become chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

"These are the same messages that Sen. Hatch was delivering in 2006, that he was going to have all this power," Ashdown said. "People like Sen. Hatch, who has been there 30-plus years, are a model for the wrong kind of influence."

Ashdown said he spent about $300,000 in his 2006 race, about one-third out of his own pocket. This time, he said he'll be smarter about holding back on campaign spending until late in the race.

The state's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson, announced recently he would not run for the Senate in 2012. Matheson continues to look at taking on GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, running for re-election in the 2nd District, or for the new 4th District seat.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, had also considered jumping into the Senate race, but decided he would instead seek re-election. Both Mathson and Chaffetz posed a significant challenge to Hatch in polls taken earlier this year.

Hatch's campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said he expects Ashdown to run a good race.

"Of course you take it seriously," Hansen said. "We'll wait and see if anybody else on the Democratic side runs as well, but Pete is a very credible candidate."

But Hansen suggested Ashdown may face a fight within his own party.

"We'll see if he ends up being the nominee," Hansen said. "The senator will run a very hard campaign, no matter who the Democratic opponent is."

Ashdown did not rule out having to face a Democratic opponent in the party's state convention and possibly, a primary. He said he planned to run even if Matheson had gotten into the Senate race.

His formal announcement is scheduled for Friday, 11/11 at 1:11 p.m. on the south steps of the state Capitol.  Ashdown said he hopes to livestream it on his campaign website, peteashdown.org.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com Twitter: dnewspolitics

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