On Thursday, Utah Senate candidate Dan Liljenquist found himself debating a cardboard cut-out of Sen. Orrin Hatch.
After holding onto his seat for 35 years, Hatch is facing a GOP primary challenge ahead of what would be his seventh and final term in the Senate.
His challenger, former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, felt he was left with no other choice but to hold a debate without the senator because of Hatch’s refusal to agree to a televised debate.
“The reason [the debate] came about really is because Sen. Hatch just absolutely refuses to debate on television,” Liljenquist campaign manager Holly Richardson told The Daily Caller.
Richardson added that Hatch was afraid to debate his record and discuss issues such as his expansion of entitlement programs.
The Liljenquist debate featured clips, available in the public domain, of Hatch’s stance on issues including his advocacy for Medicare Part D, a prescription drug plan, in 2003.
In 2003, the Bush administration was projecting the largest deficit in American history of $475 billon. In 2009, Forbes reported that Medicare Part D drastically increased the federal deficit and that many of the plan’s supporters had been aware that it would.
In 2010, Hatch admitted on MSNBC that “in those days, a lot of things weren’t paid for”.
Richardson said, “We decided that if [Hatch] would not debate his record, we would debate his record for him.”
“Was it gimmicky? Yes. But we should not have to debate his record for him,” she added. “He should be willing to present himself to the voters of Utah and he will not do it.”
Dave Hansen, Hatch’s campaign manager, told TheDC that Liljenquist’s debate “was nothing more than a publicity stunt and a gimmick.”
Hansen said that debates are only one part of a campaign and that Liljenquist is relying too heavily on them.
He added that Liljenquist initially said he would run a positive, issue-based campaign, but instead he has done nothing but attack Hatch while not telling people why they should elect him.
Richardson argued that the Hatch campaign is downplaying the need for debates because when the two candidates appear side by side the contrast “is very stark and very clear”.
She added that many voters moved over to their side because of this contrast. “When people finally saw the two of them side by side, they said ‘ah, it’s time for a change’.”
“Hatch is afraid to debate his record,” Richardson said. “But the voters of Utah deserve to see what he stands for.”
The candidates will meet for a radio debate scheduled on June 15 at 9 a.m. local time on KSL radio.