Hatch wins GOP Senate primary

Jun 26 2012 - 11:51pm

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U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and his wife, Elaine, thank his supporters after his primary win over former state senator Dan Liljenquist on Tuesday at an election party in Salt Lake City. (Colin E. Braley/The Associated Press)
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and his wife, Elaine, thank his supporters after his primary win over former state senator Dan Liljenquist on Tuesday at an election party in Salt Lake City. (Colin E. Braley/The Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah voters decided keys races in Tuesday's primary elections, handing wins to U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the nation's last GOP presidential primary before the general election, and Deputy Utah Attorney General John Swallow, who hopes to replace his retiring boss.

Hatch heads into the November election seeking his seventh -- and what he says will be his final -- term in office after beating out his challenger, former Utah state Sen. Dan Liljenquist.

Hatch barely missed his party's outright nomination at Utah's April GOP convention, winning 59.2 percent of delegate votes. He needed 60 percent to avoid a runoff.

"Look, experience does count," Hatch said Tuesday night, adding he wants to make his final term some of his most productive years in the Senate aimed at cutting federal spending. "In my last term, I'm ready to bite the bullet."

Hatch had emphasized his experience and potential placement as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee if re-elected. Liljenquist made the case that his challenger has used his influence for wasteful earmarks.

"Win or lose, we're proud of how the race was run," Liljenquist said.

Republican John Swallow now aims to replace his retiring boss, state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, and said he will continue to lead on issues such as immigration and states' rights.

"I have a message for all of Utah," Swallow said. "I want to be there to protect our rights and freedom."

Swallow will face Weber County Attorney Dee Smith in November, the only Democratic contender running for attorney general.

Shurtleff is stepping aside after a dozen years in office.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney won the Utah GOP presidential primary, claiming all 40 GOP delegates in a state where he has been hugely popular.

The contest was the final one in a primary season that started with a crowded GOP field of presidential candidates in January and ended with Romney as the only candidate campaigning for votes. Romney already had more than enough delegates to claim the GOP nomination heading into the Utah primary.

A Mormon and graduate of Brigham Young University who oversaw the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney took 90 percent of the vote in Utah's 2008 presidential primary. More than 60 percent of residents in the state are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In the only U.S. House primary, Democratic political newcomer Donna McAleer, of Park City, beat out challenger Ryan Combe and will now face Republican incumbent Rob Bishop to represent District 1, which encompasses 10 counties in the north after redistricting.

McAleer, 46, is a West Point graduate and former Army platoon leader who nearly qualified for the 2002 Olympics as a female bobsled team driver.

She hopes to become just the fourth woman to represent the state in Congress.

Bishop, 60, of Brigham City, is seeking his sixth term.

In the governor's race, Constitution Party candidate Kirk Pearson, 49, a homebuilder, will now face Republican Gov. Gary Herbert and Democrat Peter Cooke, a retired two-star general who didn't have a primary opponent. Utah has not elected a Democratic governor since Scott Matheson in 1980.

Also Tuesday, Utah voters decided winners in 17 state House and Senate seats.

The race for Salt Lake County mayor remained too close to call late Tuesday night as GOP West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder challenged management consultant Mark Crockett, a former county council member.

Winder was banking on voters forgiving him after he admitted to writing flattering stories about his city under a false name for area publications. Crockett questioned his trustworthiness. The GOP winner in that race will face state Democratic Sen. Ben McAdams in the general election.

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AP writers Lynn DeBruin and Paul Foy contributed to this report.

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