OGDEN -- Dan Liljenquist is so frustrated with Sen. Orrin Hatch's refusal to debate before June's primary election that he's going to hold debates whether Hatch is there or not.
If Hatch doesn't show, Liljenquist told the Standard-Examiner, he'll play statements that Hatch has made on issues in the past.
"We're going to get a little creative," said Liljenquist, a former Utah state senator who is challenging Hatch for the Republican nomination in Hatch's first primary race since first being elected to the U.S. Senate 36 years ago.
"We're going to ask questions and play his own words."
On Tuesday, Liljenquist's campaign began airing a 30-second television ad, aimed at Hatch's refusal to take part in televised debates.
Liljenquist's campaign said the ad is planned to run through election day. The new ad buy is for approximately $125,000.
Liljenquist visited The Standard-Examiner Monday on his way to a campaign event in Clinton. He was traveling alone, noting that he only has 10 paid campaign staff compared to the dozens who work for Hatch. Liljenquist said he is doing his best to meet ordinary people.
In that vein, he's going to a series of family nights and town hall meetings around the state in what he said is a low-cost effort to unseat Hatch, who he narrowly forced into a primary election at the GOP state convention.
Liljenquist said he's already got the support of 13 Utah Republican state senators, and promises to stay close to Utah if elected.
He said Hatch has become too much a part of Washington D.C., neglecting what Liljenquist said is a senator's key role -- to make sure the powers of the state and the federal government stay in balance.
"I'm not moving to Washington, I want to stay working closely with the Legislature and make sure their needs are met," he said.
He promised to stand up to what he sees as presidential power grabs through rule making and appointments, and also promised to vote for a term limit for U.S. Senators.
If elected, he said, he'll only serve two or three terms, at most, but feels those two terms would be during a key part of the nation's history.
"The great debate for the future of this nation is going to take place in the next 10 years over debt and the balance of federal power," he said. "I want to be there for that debate. I think I can influence it."
Liljenquist said he thinks Hatch is afraid to debate him.
"Hatch spent 18 months and $6 million," just lobbying delegates to the state convention, he said.
Hatch's pre-convention polling showed Hatch ahead, but at the convention he failed to get the 60 percent vote needed to avoid a primary.
"And you know what it was? It was the two debates we had in front of the delegates," Liljenquist said.
Ever since, Hatch has refused to debate him. Only one debate is scheduled before the primary, on radio, on a show that plays during the day when most people are at work.
For that reason, Liljenquist said, his campaign is planning to use Hatch's own words at his debates whether Hatch is there or not.
"If he won't debate his own record, we will," he said.
No dates are set for the debate events yet, but he expects one to be at Weber State University in early June.