American Fork • U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz took more swipes at Sen. Orrin Hatch during a town hall meeting Wednesday night but refused to officially commit to running for the Senate saying his decision would happen "come football season."
The congressman, a former BYU place-kicker, said Hatch made crucial voting errors in support of No Child Left Behind and the Troubled Asset Relief Program and simply supported them because he was urged to do so by President George W. Bush and Republican leadership in Congress.
"They blew it," he said of leaders during the Republican-dominated years between 2000 and 2006.
Chaffetz then lowered the boom on Hatch.
"You don't have to have 36 years of seniority to get things done in Washington," Chaffetz said. "Seniority doesn't matter if you don't vote right."
But the Hatch campaign hit back, calling the jabs "disappointing" and said Hatch "has a lifetime conservative voting record of 90 percent after more than 12,000 votes."
"Jason Chaffetz has spent the past week outside of his district dishonestly and inaccurately running down a fellow Republican," said Heather Barney, spokeswoman for Hatch. "It is disappointing for some to substitute sound bites for an actual record."
Chaffetz has been touring the state hosting a series of town hall meetings while Congress is on recess ostensibly to shore up the landscape before making a run at Hatch's seat. The Wednesday event drew about 170 people at the Holiday Inn Express and lasted for about 90 minutes. His next town hall is in Ogden.
The Utah County crowd was friendly, cheering and clapping at his digs against Hatch and his hard-line stances on immigration, a balanced budget amendment and reduced spending in Washington. In short, his positions were to change the birthright citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment; pass a cut, cap and balance bill; and eliminate government waste.
He also said the nation's energy policy must be broad and include everything from alternative sources to tapping natural resources.
And, to cheers, he called for the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan and protection of civil liberties.
"We can't give up every civil liberty in the name of security," he said.
The 44-year-old, dressed in slacks and an open-collared blue shirt, spoke for about 15 minutes before opening up the room for questions many of which centered on the recent debt ceiling crisis and the fiscal health of the country.
"We are creating such financial peril," he said. "It is going to be very difficult to turn this ship around."
Jay Larsen, a Lehi Republican precinct leader, said he'd voted for Hatch ever since he got into office in 1977, but next year, he was going to support Chaffetz. His wife, Deanna Larsen, said the same.
"It's that line he said 'they blew it,' " Jay Larsen said. "That's the difference now."
Chaffetz mingled with the crowd after the talk and, when pressed, said he was still waiting a bit before making an official announcement.
But for those marking calendars, BYU's opener is Sept. 3.