BY REBECCA PALMER
BOUNTIFUL — After narrowly defeating Bountiful native Dan Liljenquist in a Republican primary election this summer, six-term Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is running for a seventh term. He’s up against former state Senator Scott Howell, a Democrat.
Hatch points to a record of bipartisan achievement during his time in office, and says his clout and experience are invaluable to Utah on everything from foreign affairs to federal spending and especially local issues, such as Hill AFB.
Howell told a meeting of the Clipper editorial board that Hatch has failed HAFB.
Howell’s statements mirror those of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gen. Peter Cooke, who says Tinker AFB in Oklahoma outsmarted Utah to gain a three-star general in its leadership just as HAFB was downgraded to a one-star general leadership level.
Hatch tells the story differently.
“They were going to run Hill with a colonel and there were a bunch of other features that would have taken a lot of other management away from Hill,” the senator told a separate meeting of the Clipper editorial board.
“I hauled in the secretary of the Air Force, the top general in the Air Force, the chief of staff of the Air Force and we worked out 22 changes in their plan to give us a one-star and give us management, input and control over both sides of the operation. That was not easy, but we did it, and that was right in my office.”
Both candidates pledge to fight for HAFB if elected.
“We cannot allow this to disappear,” Howell said. “What we have to do is be prepared in every single way to make sure we take an aggressive approach.”
Howell would start by supporting education to create highly trained, skilled and capable employees and would infuse the area around HAFB economically. He would also foster relationships with members of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, he said.
Throughout the campaign, Howell has said that Hatch’s 36 years in office is just too long. Howell just retired from a 32-year career as an executive at IBM.
“Government service, as our founding fathers said, was get in, get out and get home,” he said. “We’ve got to get new blood back there, new leadership, and Orrin Hatch has been back there 36 years and has never been part of leadership.”
Hatch agrees that 36 years is a long time to be in office, but defended his decision to seek another term by pointing out that he will be the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee if re-elected, and would be its chairman if Republicans win a majority in the Senate. He could also be the president pro tempore.
“We’ve got to change this system and get it so that it works much better, and we have little or no help at all from the folks on the other side,” Hatch said.
To get bipartisan cooperation, the country needs leadership both from the presidency and from that committee, Hatch added
In fact, both candidates have praise for presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Howell served with Romney on the Salt Lake Olympic Committee and thinks the presidential candidate’s statements about needing a leader with business experience are right on. Hatch took the praise a step further.
“The 47 percent that Romney got in trouble with Р well he was wrong,” Hatch said. “It was 51 percent Й We don’t want to tax the truly poor but you can’t tell me the whole bottom 51 percent of all households are truly poor.”
Howell disagrees, and said he would support either Obama or Romney as president.
“When Romney talks about the 47 percent, that scares me that his success in life has led him to forget the majority of us,” Howell said.
Hatch is primarily running on his record, but Howell believes Washington is broken, and he has plans to fix it.
He would analyze the federal government’s technological resources to make them maximally efficient like he did at IBM, and thereby save taxpayer money, he said.
He would also propose suspending pay for all members of Congress until a budget is passed, and supports withdrawing troops from foreign wars immediately.