Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch unleashed the costliest campaign in Utah history to beat back a conservative challenge for the right to appear on November’s ballot.
At the end of it, the six-term Republican still has nearly $1.9 million left in the bank — and that’s after spending more than $10 million since his last general election.
Hatch’s latest campaign-finance disclosure shows he raised $635,400 from April through June, a period that includes the state political conventions and his primary election victory.
Campaign manager Dave Hansen said Hatch has no plans to slow down his fundraising, though he has trimmed the size of his campaign staff from 22 to 12.
“The campaign plans to continue to aggressively raise funds,” Hansen said Tuesday. “There is no way, shape or form that this campaign is going to let up at all.”
Hatch now faces Democrat Scott Howell, whom he beat in 2000.
Howell, a former state senator, raised $94,700 in the three-month period and spent $72,700, securing his party’s nomination in a race against Internet entrepreneur Pete Ashdown, who lost to Hatch in 2006.
Howell, a retired IBM executive, had $47,000 in available funds at the end of June.
The Democrat received contributions from some of his former legislative colleagues, including retired state Sens. Karl Swan and Robert Steiner, and some support from sitting lawmakers such as state Reps. Brian King and Patrice Arent.
Howell also accepted contributions from former associates in California, where he worked for IBM in recent years and sat on the board of Sutter Health, a nonprofit hospital chain.
The challenger plans to make an issue of Hatch’s campaign spending, which primarily comes from business interests outside Utah.
“He exemplifies exactly what is wrong with Washington, when you have lobbyists running our elected officials,” Howell said. “I just think the money situation has gotten so far out of control that we are not being represented by the people, and I think the major losers in all of this are the citizens of the state of Utah.”
Since 2006, Hatch has spent more than $10 million in campaign funds, $8 million of which he shot through since the beginning of 2011, an amount Howell called “obscene.”
At this stage, Utah’s Senate race is the sixth most expensive in the nation, a rare spot for a state with a relatively cheap media market.
Hansen said the money Hatch has raised shows the support the senator has received nationwide.
“People give to him because of his beliefs,” Hansen said. “Lobbyists don’t run the senators and they certainly don’t run Senator Hatch.”
Hansen said Hatch planned an expansive state convention campaign, involving a few dozen paid staffers who recruited volunteers to avoid the same fate met by former Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010. Bennett didn’t garner enough convention support to make a primary ballot.
Hatch not only made it to a GOP primary but he also trounced former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. Since that June 26 victory, Hatch has slowly reduced his staff, sending a couple to Washington to work on his Senate staff and a few who now work for the Utah Republican Party’s efforts to help Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Two went to law school.
Hansen said the staff cutbacks don’t mean Hatch doesn’t see Howell as formidable.
“Senator Hatch takes nothing for granted,” Hansen said. “He doesn’t assume the election is over.”
Howell said maybe Hatch finally had enough of paying staffers $30,000 to make phone calls, jobs that most campaigns rely on volunteers to do. Those payouts, Howell said, “don’t reflect the democratic process we all signed up to be in.”
Utah’s Senate race
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch continues to raise big sums as he seeks a seventh term, this time against Democrat Scott Howell. Here are the totals for the quarter spanning April through June.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R
Cash on hand: $1,869,600
Scott Howell, D
Cash on hand: $47,000
Source: Federal Election Commission