It goes to the character of Sen. Hatch and his campaign that they refuse to respect the voters of this state and have open debate. —U.S. Senate candidate Dan Liljenquist
SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Senate candidate Dan Liljenquist has taken to the airwaves to pressure Sen. Orrin Hatch to debate him on television.
The former state senator launched a two-week, $125,000 TV ad campaign Tuesday hammering his fellow Republican for refusing televised debates and agreeing to only one radio debate before the June 26 primary election. The 30-second spots are running on local stations and FOX News.
In the ad, Liljenquist reiterates his call for eight debates, noting Hatch challenged his primary opponent in 1976 to the same thing. As the ad closes, Liljenquist urges viewers to call Hatch's campaign office to tell him Utahns deserve real debates on the issues and provides its telephone number.
Liljenquist said he thinks it's appropriate for voters to personally ask Hatch to debate.
Hatch communication director Evelyn Call said the phone did ring a few times Tuesday, and the campaign doesn't mind.
"We're perfectly happy if they want to send voters our way," she said.
Call said it allows Hatch supporters to talk about the senator's record and the debates he and Liljenquist have already had. "We get the opportunity to get our message out," she said.
Hatch and Liljenquist had two debates and more than a dozen joint appearances prior to the state GOP convention in April. Other than a still unscheduled debate on KSL Radio in late June, Hatch has not agreed to any other debates.
Liljenquist said Hatch is part of the Washington elite who don't think they need to talk directly to the people of their states.
"Sen. Hatch is demonstrating that he is not above that but right in the middle of it," he said. "It goes to the character of Sen. Hatch and his campaign that they refuse to respect the voters of this state and have open debate."
The Hatch campaign said the senator has responsibilities in Washington and that the previous debate are enough. Campaign manager Dave Hansen has said there are many ways to get the message out other than debates. Hatch's latest TV ad has been airing since last week.
Other than making an issue of the debates, Liljenquist's campaign has been relatively quiet since forcing Hatch into his first primary runoff in 36 years at the state convention. Liljenquist said his campaign anticipated starting its push five weeks from the primary election. He said he'll be running TV ads from now until primary election day.