Orrin Hatch, Scott Howell lock horns in election rematch

Published: Saturday, Oct. 20 2012 4:12 p.m. MDT

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, talks with Democratic challenger Scott Howell before the start of the VoteUtah 2012 U.S. Senate debate Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, in Provo.

Rick Bowmer, The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Scott Howell has pounded the pavement, knocked on doors and made speeches in all of Utah's 29 counties in his effort to oust longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch.

The former Democratic state senator holds weekly news conferences to lay out his ideas and plans for the economy or education, though most haven't attracted much media attention. He hasn't appeared in any TV ads.

Still, Howell has persisted in getting his message out, including a campaign blitz Saturday to distribute fliers to 27,000 homes. Howell said its time send Hatch home in favor of new blood and fresh thinking in Washington.

"This is a great man who's from the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s," Howell said. "We don't need people back there who don't understand what's going on in modern America."

Hatch, meanwhile, has played hard to get, jetting back and forth between Utah and Washington. Incumbency in an overwhelmingly Republican state allows him to pick and choose his campaign spots. Last week, he teamed up with GOP congressional candidate Mia Love to meet with senior citizens and students.

In answering a question about technology at a recent debate, Hatch seemed to say time has not passed him by.

"I have my iPhone 5 and I really enjoy it. I gotta tell you, I use it all the time. I use my iPad all the time. I get on the computer even, believe it or not," he said.

The two candidates have had one face-to-face debate so far. Doug Wright is scheduled to host another one at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26, on KSL Radio.

Hatch holds an enormous money advantage over Howell. He raised $604,000 in the past quarter, more than twice what Howell has pulled down for the entire campaign. Hatch spent $1.5 million the past three months, bringing his re-election bid total to $11.7 million.

Howell has raised $243,000 and had $91,000 on hand as of Sept. 30.

Hatch is the 23rd longest serving senator in U.S. history and the Senate's third most senior member. He defeated Howell in 2000 by a 2-to-1 margin.

The 59-year-old Howell has made an issue of Hatch's age, saying at one point during the campaign that, at 78, the six-term senator could die in office. The Hatch camp denounced the comment as crass.

Howell said the Founding Fathers never intended for someone to stay in public service for 42 years, which would be the case for Hatch if he's elected to what he said would be his final term.

"We continue to elect the very same people, and we wonder why we get the same results," Howell said. "We cannot perpetuate a seniority system that generates this 10 percent approval" rating of Congress.

Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both need to go as part of a change in leadership, he said.

As a state senator, Howell said, he retired after three terms because that's what he said he would do. If elected to the U.S. Senate, he said he would serve no more than two terms.

Hatch said voters already have a way to limit terms, "and that's the ballot box." He said he could live with term limits if every state had them. Utahns, he said, keep electing him because he's effective.

"When it comes to seniority, I hardly ever talk about it," Hatch said.

Yet, he frequently says he's running again because as the ranking Republican on the powerful Senate Finance Committee he is in line to be its chairman, a position that comes through seniority. The GOP also must win control of the Senate for that to happen.

"If we're going to solve problems in this country, it's that committee that does that," Hatch said, noting about 60 percent of the federal budget runs through the committee.

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