Utah Tea Party Targets Orrin Hatch

Teams with national FreedomWorks hope to oust long-serving Orrin Hatch.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch's rightward political shift over the past two years hasn't worked to soothe Tea Party critics who today joined to defeat him. National Tea Party organizer FreedomWorks teamed with the Utah Tea Party, the state's Tea Party umbrella group, at the end of a weekend training conference in Washington. [See political cartoons about the Tea Party.]

At a press conference featuring posters reading "Retire Hatch," FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said voters have "given up" on Hatch for supporting efforts like TARP and the auto bailout. David Kirkham, spokesman for the state party, added that Hatch's more conservative votes since the party helped oust former GOP Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010 haven't changed his view that Hatch is a big government Republican.

In an interview at FreedomWorks headquarters, Kirkham said that he was appreciative of Hatch's more conservative record over the past two years and said that it will force voters to decide if they believe he has moved to become more acceptable to the movement. "That's what voters will have to weigh," he said. "Is he sincere?"

To show their anger with some of Hatch's votes over his 34-year career in the Senate, Kirkham and FreedomWorks planned to march on the National Republican Senatorial Committee today to protest what they see as support for Hatch.

The NRSC has warned every incumbent to brace for a challenge and vowed not to spend money in primaries. What's more, Hatch is vice-chair of the group.

Said Communications Director Brian Walsh of the Tea Party protesters, "We respect their views just as we respect the views of others who are strongly supporting Senator Hatch's re-election, including Mark Levin and C. Boyden Gray who is the co-chairman of the FreedomWorks Foundation Board. But as vice-chairman of the NRSC, few people have worked harder than Orrin Hatch to help Republicans win back the Senate next year and [NRSC Chair] Senator John Cornyn is proud to support him."

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