Long-time Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch held off a tough primary challenge from Tea Party candidate Dan Liljenquist on Tuesday, as Utah voters went to the polls to vote in the state's primaries.
Hatch's victory put to rest the GOP establishment's fears of a major Tea Party shake-up in Congress, after another old-hand in Congress Dick Lugar lost in the Indiana primary earlier this year. In that election, Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock defeated Lugar, while in the Texas Republican primary last month, Tea Partier Ted Cruz forced an August runoff election with GOP establishment candidate David Dewhurst.
The result in Utah stems the Tea Party tide for now. Veteran 78-year-old Senator Hatch spend close to $10 million on his race – $5 million leading up to Utah’s state Republican convention in April, where 10 candidates, including Hatch, were whittled down to the top two finishers through multiple rounds of voting. Hatch also received support from presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is very popular in the state because of his Mormon roots and his work with the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Hatch will now face-off in November against Democratic nominee Scott Howell.
Outside of this closely watched contest, Utah also voted in a presidential primary, and Mitt Romney easily secured the vote and state's delegates in the Mormon-heavy state. Romney was on the ticket with Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who stood little chance to unseat the presumptive GOP nominee. Paul supporters suffered a double disappointment, as they had put their organizing muscle behind Tea Party challenger Liljenquist, to shake-up the Washington establishment, but lost that race too.
Romney, a Mormon and graduate of Brigham Young University who oversaw the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, is a hugely popular figure in Utah, where more than 60% of residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Romney won 90% of the vote in Utah's 2008 presidential primary.
Outside of Utah, New York also held a primary Tuesday, and long-time Congressman Charlie Rangel easily won re-election to the House. Colorado and South Carolina also held local and state races.