Stephen H. Urquhart

Working on a bear-trapping project in college, state Rep. Steve Urquhart found himself accidentally riding the back of a large female bear he thought was tranquilized.

Now Urquhart is embarking on another wild ride: Challenging 28-year U.S. Senate veteran Orrin Hatch for the GOP nomination in 2006.

Urquhart, R-St. George, made the formal announcement Thursday afternoon at the State Capitol. While the 40-year-old attorney said he plans on running and winning the seat, he acknowledged that come the candidate filing in mid-March he'll have to decide whether he officially takes on Hatch or files for re-election in House District 75, which includes the old core areas of St. George and parts north.

"It's time for a change," said Urquhart, adding Hatch should be thanked for his work by Utahns and then retire.

Urquhart said Hatch doesn't care about his Utah constituents, or he runs such an inefficient constituent-services operation that it appears he doesn't care.

"Sen. Bob Bennett is the work horse" for Utah in the Senate, he said.

Hatch has dropped the ball on individuals' concerns with the federal government as well as statewide issues, like the Legislature's APPLE initiative to get federal funding in lieu of property taxes that can't be collected on vast acres of federal land in the state, Urquhart charged.

Yes, Hatch has seniority, and with that some power, admitted Urquhart. "But it's time for someone with energy and drive," he added.

Urquhart said issue-by-issue differences will come later, but he ticked off several areas where he disagrees with Hatch:

• Stem-cell research. Advocating that an embryo can grow for 14 days before it is taken apart "strikes at the core principles of pro-life."

• Immigration. He opposes Hatch's Dream Act — which would say states have the power to let illegal aliens get into public colleges and pay in-state tuition. "We need to control our borders." We should allow non-Americans to come into the country on work permits, but keep track of them and make sure they leave when they are supposed to, Urquhart said.

• The Constitution. "We believe it is sacred, yet Sen. Hatch has introduced 70 resolutions (over the years) trying to amend it."

• Limited government. Hatch supported No Child Left Behind, just one example of where Urquhart said the federal government is telling Utahns how to run their lives — in this case education. "Do we want (Democratic senators) John Kerry and Ted Kennedy deciding education for us, or our own local school boards?"

Raised in Houston, Urquhart got his undergraduate degree at Williams College in Massachusetts. He earned a law degree from Brigham Young University in 1992, worked for a large law firm in Newport Beach and Seattle before moving to St. George, his wife Sara's hometown, in the early 1990s to open a business law practice. The father of four children, he was elected to the Utah House in 2000 and into leadership as majority whip last November.


E-mail: [email protected]