SALT LAKE CITY -- U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and his key Republican challengers met in their second and final debate before this weekend's state convention, with each emphasizing their strengths in a final push for delegate votes.
Like their previous debate several weeks ago, Monday night's affair between Hatch, state Rep. Chris Herrod and former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist on the campus of Dixie State College in St. George was congenial and didn't deliver the expected blows aimed at the incumbent senator. Candidates focused on the expansion of federal powers, the growing national debt and energy development.
Hatch has emphasized repeatedly the importance of his congressional seniority, especially the power he has over the federal budget as the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. He continued to do that Monday, making it clear to delegates that losing his influence in Washington will significantly hamper efforts to balance the budget and open the state's public lands to oil and natural gas exploration.