Sen. Orrin Hatch officially kicked of his re-election campaign Monday, he'll travel throughout the state this week and end the campaign swing with a reception and dinner in Salt Lake featuring boxing legend Muhammed Ali on Thursday.
Hatch held a reception with Ali two weeks ago in New Orleans during the Republican National Convention, which was a highlight for the Utah GOP delegation. Now Hatch wants to bring the same enthusiasm and opportunity to other Utah Republicans, said Bud Scruggs, Hatch's campaign manager.Hatch holds a wide lead over Democrat Brian Moss in the junior senator's re-election for a third six-year term. Hatch defeated Moss' father, former Sen. Frank E. Moss in 1976, in Hatch's first attempt at public office. Hatch won re-election in 1982 by beating then-Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson.
"I feel good about how the race is going so far," Hatch said Monday. "But we aren't taking anything for granted. We'll run a full campaign from here on out."
With such a large lead, Hatch said he'll also concentrate his efforts on helping other Republican candidates this year - especially Gov. Norm Bangerter, who trails Wilson in the gubernatorial race. "I'll do whatever the governor asks," Hatch said. But he added that he won't be taking out after anyone, including Wilson, on a personal level. "I'll only be talking about the positive aspects of the Republican candidates."
Part of helping local candidates will be Ali's appearances. Local GOP candidates who sell the $10 Ali reception tickets will keep the money for their own campaigns, Scruggs said.
Hatch has raised more than $2 million for his race and still has about $1 million in the bank as he enters the final two months of the campaign.
Hatch was to visit Logan, Brigham City and Ogden on Monday. On Tuesday he'll visit Moab, Huntington, Vernal and St. George. On Wednesday he'll visit Kanab, Cedar City and Provo before returning to Salt Lake City Thursday for the Ali events.
Originally, Scruggs said Hatch wasn't going to have a fund-raising event in connection with Ali's visit. "But we found out (Ali's visit) was going to cost us $40,000 or more in travel and the receptions, so we thought we'd try to recoup some of those costs and at the same time help other Republican candidates."
Ali, 46, will appear at a $10-per-person reception on the grounds of the State Capitol at 6 p.m. on Thursday. At 7:30 p.m. Thursday Ali will attend a private $500-a-plate dinner in the Little America Hotel for Hatch supporters. He then will fly off to California to campaign for a Republican House candidate. He will return to Salt Lake City Friday for a weekend of public and private appearances with Hatch.
Saturday morning Ali will visit patients in Primary Children's Hospital. He'll then meet with some children in a local gymnasium and on Sunday will attend the weekly performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square. He'll then fly back to Washington, D.C., with Hatch and his wife, Elaine.
Ali and Hatch became friends last year when Ali called Hatch and asked for his help in getting a friend appointed to the Justice Department. Hatch sits on the Senate's Judiciary Committee, which oversees such appointments. The man got the job, and Ali showed up unannounced in Hatch's Senate offices to give him an autographed punching bag.
The two have talked several times since and now call each other close friends. Ali, in a Deseret News interview in New Orleans, said he wanted to campaign for Hatch this year and hopes Hatch will run for president in 1996. The former heavyweight champion suffers from Parkinson's Syndrome, and his speech is soft and slow. But his mind is quick, as was evident during the newspaper interview. Still, he tires easily and, Scruggs said, his appearances on behalf of Hatch show his commitment to the senator.