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Sen. Orrin Hatch forced into primary for first time since '76, faces Dan Liljenquist in June

Howell wins Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate race

Published: Saturday, April 21 2012 12:54 p.m. MDT

Calling himself a "tough old bird," Hatch told delegates he's never been more eager or energized to be a force for change.

"It will be my last six years in the U.S. Senate, but they'll be the best six years, and the most critical six years of all," the 78-year-old senator said.

Hatch said he is going to be the next chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. "But let me tell you this: I'm not impressed by just the title. But believe me when I say that a strong and experienced chairman can make all the difference in the world."

Republicans would have to win a majority in the Senate in November for Hatch to get that position.

The longtime senator also said he will make sure Hill Air Force Base remains open. "Anybody who thinks we don't have to hold on to Hill Air Force Base every year I've been there is foolish," he said.

Liljenquist attacked Hatch on his campaign pitch that if re-elected he would become chairman of the Finance Committee. Hatch, he said, made the same arguments in 2000 and 2006.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, can get that position if Hatch isn't reelected, Liljenquist said, noting Crapo is a BYU graduate and true conservative.

Liljenquist called Hatch's claim that Hill would close without him offensive.

"No one senator is too big to fail. No one senator is too big to lose," he said.

Hatch has hitched himself to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign the past few weeks, and continued that theme Saturday.

“Mitt Romney can’t do what he needs to do without me,” he said. And if Romney doesn’t win the White House, Hatch said, “you’re sure as heck going to want me back there.” 

Liljenquist touted his experience working for Bain Capital, a Boston-based firm that Romney helped found that specializes in turning around struggling companies.

"If there was ever a time for a corporate turnaround team to go to Washington," Liljenquist said. "It's broken beyond belief."

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche, Marjorie Cortez

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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