Utah: Orrin Hatch Cruises to Victory in GOP Primary

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted June 26, 2012 at 11:12pm

Sen. Orrin Hatch handily won renomination in the Republican primary Tuesday night and is now heavily favored to win re-election to a seventh term, which he has said would be his last.

After entering the 2012 cycle as one of the Senate’s most endangered incumbents, the 78-year-old lawmaker survived a challenge from Dan Liljenquist, an underfunded former state Senator whose candidacy was ultimately undone by Hatch’s strong campaign and a lack of angst over the Senator’s voting record and length of service. Hatch led 69 percent to 31 percent, with 13 percent of precincts reporting.

The Associated Press called the race just after 11 p.m. Eastern time.

Hatch, who is in line to be chairman of the Finance Committee if Republicans regain the majority, nearly won the nomination outright at the April 21 state party convention, where he came up just short of the 60 percent delegate vote necessary. His heavy cash advantage and support among the broad primary electorate made the two-man race his to lose.

In November, Hatch will face former state Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary and whom Hatch defeated in 2000 by 35 points. Already a heavily Republican state, Utah will be even more difficult for Democrats running for federal office with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket.