Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch plans to spend the next four weeks in Utah courting the Republican delegates who control his political fate.
That means he will miss two weeks of Senate action, with the other two weeks coinciding with the planned Easter recess.
The six-term senator leaves Washington on Friday afternoon and will head directly to the Summit and Wasatch county conventions.
Hatch and his nine Republican challengers ultimately will meet on April 21 at the state Republican Convention, where the 4,000 people elected delegates will winnow down the field.
Any candidate who can claim 60 percent of the delegate vote will win the nomination, but if no one can hit that mark, the top two will face off in a June primary election.
This is the toughest re-election bid Hatch has faced, and his campaign manager Dave Hansen said the senator does not want to take the delegates for granted.
"They have the right to talk to the candidates and ask them questions, even if they have served in office for quite some time," Hansen said. "The senator takes the responsibility to communicate with them very seriously."
Beyond campaigning with delegates, Hatch will meet with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Rob Bishop at Hill Air Force Base on Monday. Later in the week, he plans to join Fish and Wildlife officials as they tour areas of Iron County damaged by prairie dogs.
Hatch also has agreed to two debates with his top Republican rivals, former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist and state Rep. Chris Herrod.
The first will take place in Draper on April 4 and the second will be in St. George on April 16.
"We are challenging every one of the delegates to meet with Hatch and look him in the eye just like they look me in the eye and decide who is best to represent the state," said Liljenquist. "We feel very good about our chances."
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