While the final delegate counts from Thursday night's Republican caucuses in Utah will likely not be known until early next week, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) scored an important win on his chief primary opponent's home turf.
Hatch supporters captured the three delegate spots to represent former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist's home district of Davis County, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Liljenquist, a Tea Party favorite, is Hatch's chief opponent as the veteran senator battles to win a seventh term in office. Thursday night's caucuses are the first step in the process to elect delegates.
Hatch saw strong backing in the areas around Salt Lake City, according to published reports. At Liljenquist's home caucus, Hatch supporters had the majority and grabbed the three spots. Liljenquist said he was expecting to fare poorly in his home precinct.
"This has always been a Hatch area. One of my neighbors is the finance director for Hatch," Liljenquist told the Tribune. "I think it's a generational thing. A lot of older people voted here, but we're hearing reports from places like Utah County, Herriman and South Jordan that we did well with younger crowds."
The 4,000 delegates will meet next month to pick a candidate for Hatch's senate seat, with Hatch facing off against Liljenquist and state Rep. Chris Herrod, along with several other candidates. If a candidate receives 60 percent of the vote, they gain the nomination; if no one captures that much, the two highest vote-getters advance to a June primary. In 2010, U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett (R) saw his reelection campaign collapse when he was bested at the convention by Mike Lee and Tom Bridgewater, with Lee capturing the seat. In 2004, then-Gov. Olene Walker saw Republican delegates deny her a chance to run for another term.
Liljenquist, 37, has become a Tea Party favorite nationally. Freedom Works, a Tea Party-aligned group, spent $600,000 to help Liljenquist's caucus campaign and helped to recruit delegate candidates for the former state senator.
According to the Twitter stream on the Utah Politics blog, high turnout was reported across the state, with some caucuses being dominated by younger voters, and others by older voters. One precinct reported a 300 percent increase in attendance over the 2010 caucus. Statewide attendance is estimated at between 125,000 and 200,000.
Jordan Rogers, a Brigham Young student who was up for a delegate spot, tweeted that 70 out of 83 attendees at his South Jordan caucus were under the age of 30 and Hatch captured the delegate spots. South Jordan is located in Salt Lake County.
Draper City Councilman Jeff Stenquist (R) tweeted:
Draper is a community of 42,000 spanning parts of Salt Lake and Utah Counties.
The high attendance is credited to the Mormon church's encouraging members to attend the caucuses.
"The brethren told us it was important, so we came," Haley Donaldson told the Provo Daily Herald, noting that church activities that she and her husband had planned to attend were canceled on Thursday evening.
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