Liljenquist said that near-death experience provides the context and backdrop for what he wants to do politically. "What I've tried to do in my service is tried to make decisions that matter now and will matter long after I'm gone," he said.
He doesn't put any stock in Hatch's argument that seniority and experience get things done in Washington.
A few years ago, a state replaced a 24-year incumbent and two years later an 18-year incumbent.
"It went from the most senior delegation to the youngest. But they injected new life into that state and that state went further and faster than any other time in the history of the state. One of those guys in his very first term put the entire labor movement on its heels.
"You know what state that was? It was Utah. In 1974 we got Jake Garn and in 1976 we got Orrin Hatch."
Experience of his own
State Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, a longtime Hatch supporter, shifted his allegiance to Liljenquist. He said his former colleague can be effective as a freshman, citing his work in the Utah Legislature on state pension and Medicaid reform. Hillyard said he's impressed with Liljenquist's ability to understand issues, numbers and solutions.
"He's the type of person that is pushing but not pushy," he said. "You don't feel like he's crowding you."
Liljenquist, who is endorsed by former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, said should he become a senator, he would not serve more than three terms. Voters, he said, are looking for leadership, not career politicians. That's why Mitt Romney's support of Hatch somewhat puzzles him.
"It's what Mitt Romney has endorsed that interesting to me. The ideas he has endorsed are that Washington will not solve its own problems, that career politicians are the problem in Washington," he said. "You can't get more career politician than Sen. Hatch."
Sen. Orrin Hatch
Occupation: U.S. senator since 1977
Politics: Republican; past chairman Senate Judiciary Committee; ranking member Senate Finance Committee
Education: B.S. history, Brigham Young University, history; University of Pittsburgh Law School
Family: wife, Elaine; six children
Residence: Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City
Occupation: formerly worked at Bain Consulting, Affiliated Computer Services, Focus Services; most recently consulted for Laura and John Arnold Foundation on pension reform
Politics: Republican; Utah state senator, 2009-2011, passed bills on Medicaid and pension reform
Education: B.A. economics, Brigham Young University; University of Chicago Law School
Family: wife, Brooke; six chidlren
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