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Democrat Howell criticizes Hatch — and Obama

Published September 27, 2012 5:41 pm

Politics • Candidate says senator and president are letting down U.S. troops.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As the nation's best-known gun rights group gave Sen. Orrin Hatch its highest endorsement for protecting the right to bear arms, his Democratic opponent, Scott Howell, said Wednesday that Hatch is letting down the soldiers who actually bear those arms in defense of the country.

And Howell did not just attack Hatch in a press conference — he also criticized the head of his party, President Barack Obama, for not bringing home troops from Afghanistan more quickly.

But Howell started by targeting Hatch, saying, "Every Utahn should be as furious as I am that Orrin Hatch could not find it in his heart to support our veterans by helping them get back to work" as he voted last week to help block the Veterans Jobs Corps Act, designed to increase hiring and job training for veterans.

"Sen. Hatch said in essence, 'Thanks for wearing the colors. Now you're on your own,' " Howell said at a press conference as a few veterans stood behind him at the Veterans Memorial Park in West Jordan. "It is a disgrace that Orrin Hatch would turn his back on our veterans."

Hatch spokeswoman Heather Barney said such comments show that "Howell is once again showing he agrees with the liberal line of more spending and budget-busting legislation."

She added, "Instead of backing a bill that would have spent a billion dollars our nation doesn't have, Sen. Hatch backs common-sense legislation to bring real jobs and greater retirement security to our veterans" pushed as an alternative by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., to the other bill.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund endorsed Hatch Wednesday and gave him an "A+" rating for his protection of the right to bear arms. Its chairman, Chris W. Cox, said Hatch "has demonstrated leadership in defending our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage."

Howell said in response, "I'm certainly a supporter of the Second Amendment as a concealed-carry weapons permit holder," and said all candidates have a variety of endorsements.

Meanwhile, Howell also said all troops should now be brought home from Afghanistan and criticized Obama for not doing that more quickly.

"I'm suggesting that the president has to stand up to his commitment that he made earlier to get us out of Afghanistan by the end of his presidency. He's let us down on that," Howell said.

ldavidson@sltrib.com