SALT LAKE CITY – A state representative announced he will challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch (search) next year, saying his fellow Republican is not serving people back home.
"Utah deserves the full attention of our senators," Steve Urquhart (search) said Thursday during an informal meeting with reporters on Utah's Capitol Hill. He tipped constituents to his plans a day earlier in postings on his Web site.
A primary contest between Hatch and Urquhart would be held only if neither gets 60 percent of the delegate vote at the state Republican convention in May.
Urquhart, a lawyer and the House majority whip, has been active in trying to keep radioactive waste out of Utah and did not want Utah to participate in President Bush's No Child Left Behind (search) education plan.
He said his decision to run stems from complaints that Hatch is not responsive to constituents and has lost touch with his home state.
Hatch campaign spokesman Dave Hansen rejected that criticism and said the senator has won awards for his responsiveness.
Hansen said he fully expected a challenge from within the Republican Party and downplayed Urquhart as a threat. Hatch, first elected to the Senate in 1976, has a war chest of $1.7 million.
News of Urquhart's bid sparked a round of telephone calls from Hatch to key Utah supporters, including many of Urquhart's fellow Republican state legislators.
"We're not taking anything for granted," Hansen said. "But we expect to prevail."
A Valley Research poll conducted for The Salt Lake Tribune in June found that 42 percent of 400 respondents would support Hatch's re-election bid. Nearly 17 percent would favor another Republican and 20 percent said they would vote for a Democrat. The survey had a margin of error of 5 percent.
Democrat Pete Ashdown, founder and CEO of Internet service provider XMission, also has announced his candidacy for the Senate seat.