Longtime Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch failed to get enough votes at the Utah State Republican convention last weekend to avoid a primary election. Hatch faces former State Senator Dan Liljenquist who resigned from the legislature in order to challenge Hatch.
Republican State Senator Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, supports Liljenquist and says he sees him as a man who was destined for leadership. Some people call Liljenquist the Tea Party candidate but Hillyard says that is clearly not true, although, like himself, he supports conservative principles.
Hillyard says while a freshman in the state senate, Liljenquist was able to get a pension reform bill through both houses and both were unanimous votes.
“The next time we gave him the assignment of Medicaid and he did some marvelous things there,” Hillyard says. “We’ve capped Medicaid, we’ve gone to different programs to try to save money within Medicaid and those alone will save us a substantial amount of money.
“But even with that I think he could see that Medicaid has to be solved on a federal level. We just can tinker around on the edges.”
Hillyard says that Liljenquist’s work on those key pieces of legislation should be a barometer for what type of work he could get done in Washington.
“Again, if he could do anything near what he could do with retirement and Medicaid on a national level he has my absolute support.”
Hillyard says Liljenquist also has a great ability to get along with people.
Hatch was not the only candidate who failed to get the 60 percent of votes needed at Saturday’s convention to avoid a primary. Hillyard says he was surprised that incumbent State Auditor Austin Johnson will also have to face a primary against his challenger John Dougall.
Hillyard says he supports Johnson and thinks he has done an excellent job with limited resources.
“There is certainly a lot more he could do if he had more people on his staff. He’s been taking his budget cuts like everybody else,” Hillyard explains.
Hillyard says that Dougall could possibly present some challenges to the office of State Auditor.
“John Dougall is not a CPA. So he just brings a business background and couldn’t certify the audits that are being done,” Hillyard continues. “John’s kind of a controversial guy. I think if we have him it would be like a referee in a basketball game, you’ll know who he is constantly.”
The primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 26.