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(Dan Liljenquist and Sen. Orrin Hatch participate in a debate at KSL in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 15, 2012. (AP PHOTO/Laura Seitz, Pool) photo, Deseret News)
Plenty of fireworks in Hatch-Liljenquist debate

Politics » Two GOP rivals spar over their voting records, spending and more.

First Published Jun 15 2012 12:39 pm • Last Updated Sep 11 2012 11:35 pm

Sen. Orrin Hatch sometimes flushed red with anger and wrung his hands under the desk as he talked. His GOP challenger, Dan Liljenquist, often pointed his finger as he aggressively took on his Republican rival.

But few people saw that — and their expressions during many testy exchanges — because Friday’s debate was on the radio, and Hatch declined offers to have a tape of it televised.

At a glance

Radio debate rebroadcast

KSL Radio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) plans to rebroacast Friday’s debate between Sen. Orrin Hatch and former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Dueling endorsements

It may not be as prized in Utah as an endorsement from favorite son Mitt Romney, who is supporting Sen. Orrin Hatch, Dan Liljenquist, was backed Friday by former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

“Plain and simple, Dan Liljenquist is the stronger conservative in this race,” said Santorum, who served in the Senate with Hatch. “I’ve known Orrin Hatch for years and believe he is a very good man, but in a deeply conservative state like Utah, we must elect authentic conservatives. I believe Dan Liljenquist is that candidate.”

Adding to the debate about who is the real conservative, the American Conservative Union Political Action Committee endorsed Hatch on Friday.

“Orrin Hatch has fought hard for the people of Utah,” said ACU Chairman Al Cardenas, “standing up for the rights of the unborn, the Second Amendment and pushing for a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Lee Davidson

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It also is the only debate that Hatch is allowing between the state convention and Utah’s June 26 primary.

Liljenquist declared victory afterward and said, "That’s why they don’t want to debate."

When asked who won, Hatch said, "I never talk in those terms."

He added, "You’ll never see Orrin Hatch afraid to debate anybody" and said Friday’s radio debate plus two before the state convention were plenty.

The two had several feisty exchanges on KSL Radio’s "Doug Wright Show" about the value of Hatch’s 36 years of Senate seniority and about their voting records.

For example, Hatch accused Liljenquist of voting to expand child health insurance programs when he was a state senator.

"That is simply not true," Liljenquist said.

"Well, of course, it’s true," Hatch responded.


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"No, it’s not true," Liljenquist insisted.

"What are you talking about?" Hatch asked.

"The vote I took in the Legislature removed a five-year waiting period for legal immigrants — legal immigrants — to qualify for these programs. That’s all I did," Liljenquist said.

"That’s an expansion," Hatch said.

"That was not an expansion," Liljenquist said.

Later, Liljenquist accused Hatch of "fiscal child abuse" by voting for programs not fully funded, leaving future generations to pay for them.

"Apparently, I’m responsible for everything that’s wrong in the federal government," Hatch responded. "That’s total BS and everyone knows it."

As they argued whether Hatch’s seniority is needed to protect Hill Air Force Base, Hatch said Liljenquist doesn’t believe the northern Utah installation is at risk so he "shouldn’t be representing our state."

Liljenquist fired back: "Absolutely, I know that, I live in Davis County."

Hatch said, "Well, apparently you don’t."

After they interrupted each other several more times on the matter, Hatch, seeking a seventh Senate term, said, "Look, I’m getting a little aggravated because I think some of these arguments are so phony."

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