SALT LAKE CITY — A national tea party organization has endorsed Utah Republicans Mia Love in 4th Congressional District and Dan Liljenquist in the U.S. Senate race.
Meantime, Gov. Gary Herbert declined again Thursday to back Sen. Orrin Hatch, saying he likes both the longtime senator and his primary election opponent Liljenquist.
Though FreedomWorks didn't formally back Liljenquist before the state GOP convention last weekend, it has actively organized opposition to Hatch's re-election campaign for the past year. Liljenquist forced Hatch into a primary runoff, the six-term senator's first since being elected in 1976.
“We have been working with Utah conservatives since last May to elect the strongest and most consistent advocate for conservative economic policy, and Dan has proven himself to be the man for the job," said Russ Walker, FreedomWorks national political director.
The political action committee based in Washington, D.C., calls Love the "real deal" for conservatives.
“She recognizes that government is part of the problem, not the solution, to our current economic woes. Mia will represent the best interests of Utah taxpayers in Congress, strengthening the Republican majority in the House, and expanding the coalition of fiscal conservatives within it," Walker said.
Love faces Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson in the November election. FreedomWorks spent about $50,000 against Matheson in 2010.
FreedomWorks spent about $700,000 on its "Retire Hatch" campaign prior to the state GOP convention, including negative TV ads.
"We'll spend what we think we need to spend" to continue that effort, Walker said.
FreedomWorks plans to support Liljenquist and Love with an "aggressive" get-out-the-vote campaign including door-to-door contacting, phone banking, yard signs, door hangers and direct mail.
Herbert isn't publicly taking sides in the Senate race, though he said Hatch's seniority can't be overlooked.
"I think they're both good people," Herbert said during the taping of his monthly news conference on KUED Channel 7. He said they are “very capable people. It’s going to be tough decision for the people of Utah. “
The governor said he’s known Hatch “for a long time and he's served our state extremely well. He's the personification of a workaholic." He also praised Liljenquist's work as a state senator on Medicaid and pension reforms.
The race, Herbert said, "is about seniority, whether you think seniority is an important thing for the state of Utah and what it can do to help protect Utah's interest and help us lead the way, versus a new set of eyes and ears of a very talented guy."
The governor stopped short of siding with Hatch, but said seniority is important.
"That's how the game is played. Seniority does count and whether you like it or not — some would like to change the idea of seniority — but in the Senate particularly, seniority does count, so it's certainly something that ought to be considered," he said.
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