Tuesday, August 02, 2005

So, How Is Hatch Representing Utah?

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is gearing up to run for his sixth term in the U.S. Senate. Of course, few voters remember that when he beat Democrat Frank Moss who was running for a fourth term in 1976, he campaigned largely on the fact that long-term service in the senate resulted in incumbents being out of touch with their constituents.

Moss was blindsided by Hatch’s victorious campaign, not realizing that the political demographics of Utah were rapidly sliding from Democrat to Republican largely due to the culture wars of the 60s and early 70s, and which side of those wars the party of the kicking mule seemed to represent.

With state Representative Steve Urquhart (R-St. George) announcing his intent to challenge Hatch, many are spouting the same arguments against dumping Hatch that were commonly used in favor of keeping Moss 30 years ago. The main argument is that Utah doesn’t want to lose its seniority in the senate. However, seniority is good only if it actually benefits Utah. What has Hatch done with his oh-so-precious seniority?

The Hatch team has put out 28 press releases in the last 31 days. Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT), who won re-election last year, put out nine press releases during the same period. Here is a run-down of some of the things Senator Hatch is taking credit for doing in Washington.

  • Introduced bill to use taxpayer money to subsidize purchases of gun safes.

  • Supported the transportation bill, but failed to get language attached to enable the Legacy Highway to move forward. Did get language included to protect a small traffic data collection company in Utah County.

  • Helped pass a bill that increases the small business tax exemption for medical device companies.

  • Supported government funding of embryonic stem cell research.

  • Supported language in the energy bill aimed at increasing staff to process the backlog in BLM gas and oil permit requests.

  • Helped pass a bill to transfer ownership of Minersville State Park to Beaver County.

  • Helped pass Senator Bennett’s bill adding some pioneer trails to the national trails system.

  • Negotiated language in the (truly wasteful – see here) energy bill that would subsidize the purchase of alternative fuel cars, refineries that are increasing production, and development of alternative fuel sources.

  • Supported President Bush’s various nominees.

  • Supported copyright law changes that would benefit mostly large media companies and hurt smaller concerns.

  • Introduced a bill aimed at protecting some private property in light of the recent SCOTUS ruling giving governments unprecedented power over private property.

  • Supported a bill funding the move of the Moab tailings pile.
Many of these things sound great. I appreciate many of Hatch's votes, but the issues into which he really put his energy may not resonate well with conservatives in Utah. Do we really want to subsidize gun safes, alternative fuel cars (which are already heavily subsidized and usually cost more than the average Utah family can afford anyway), medical equipment firms, individual small businesses, etc.? Do we really want to use taxpayer money to fund embryonic stem cell research? Do we want a senator that represents the interests of large media companies with the result of stifling innovation and ensuring higher prices for consumers?

These issues are only part of the problem. The real problem is that Senator Hatch only pays attention to Utah voters, and elected and appointed officials during his election campaigns. Then they are safely tucked away back in that big squarish state out west while the good senator pursues his goal of inside-the-beltway immortality.

If seniority in the senate is so important, it’s time for us to start building new seniority now. Otherwise Utah will likely end up with two freshman senators only two years apart. That’s supposed to be good for Utah?

Hatch’s use of his seniority in the senate shows that it is not nearly as valuable as conventional wisdom seems to dictate. It’s time for fresh blood and time for someone that will actually represent Utah interests.

If you want to see where Steve Urquhart stands on issues, see his blog. If you want to know what kind of legislator and person Urquhart is, check out the blog of Representative John Dougall (R-American Fork). I think Urquhart is a great alternative to perma-Hatch.


Anonymous said...

I always love the idealists and the term limit thing...I'm a realist and not that naive. Try the DSHEA that Hatch passed and then look to see how large the dietary supplement industry is in Utah - the desnews did a piece on it a few months ago...then look to see how much people are beating him up for defending one of the largest industries in the state...then tell me he doesn't have our best interest at heart. Its quite possible I wouldn't have a job if it wasn't for Hatch. Lobby your hobby - vote your job.

steve u. said...

Thanks for the good observations and the the kind words. Someone asked me the other day if I thought it would hurt that Sen. Hatch, no doubt, would have a flurry of activity this campaign-year. Hurt in what sense? It might be good for Utah. For my campaign, it might hurt; that, of course, is the intention of the flurry. But, it also could backfire. It would be interesting to track this year's activities against that of the past few years (e.g., when was the last month with 28 press releases, how much will be spent this year on "franked" constituent mailers versus past years, how many trips to Utah, etc.). At some point, it actually helps make my case that more could be done -- if someone worked that hard every year and not just every election year.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Anonymous: It's been a long time since Hatch worked on the DSHEA. As is the case with all elected officials, we need to ask what he has done for us lately. Eternal life in the senate is a grand reward for having sponsored a bill years ago that benefited your industry.

Steve: I think the point is that Hatch runs his personal aggrandizement agenda 75% of the time and wants to look like he's doing something for Utah the 25% of the time that he's running a campaign. We need 100% representation, not 25%.