in

Not Even Leonard Leo Could Turn Brent Orrin Hatch Into Utah’s Next Senator – Mother Jones

Not Even Leonard Leo Could Turn Brent Orrin Hatch Into Utah’s Next Senator – Mother Jones
Announcement


Announcement

Brent Orrin Hatch in Salt Lake City in 2008.Douglas C. Pizac/AP Photo

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

It turns out that not even a famous last name, support from the conservative Federalist Society and its powerful leader, and a boatload of dark money can turn a Republican candidate into the next senator from Utah.

In early January, Brent Orrin Hatch threw his hat into a crowded GOP primary race that will decide who replaces Sen. Mitt Romney, who announced in September that he wouldn’t run again. Hatch was sure to use his middle name in all his campaign materials, lest voters fail to realize that he is the son of the late and revered Sen. Orrin Hatch. The elder Hatch, who was 83 years old when he retired, represented Utah in the Senate for 42 years. When he announced his retirement in 2018, he anointed Romney as his successor.

For 30 years, the younger Hatch has been a board member of the Federalist Society, the organization that President Donald Trump relied on to select federal judges during his administration. Its co-chair is Leonard Leo, a powerful figure who is close to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and who helped put Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett on the high court. He controls more than $1 billion in political advocacy money that he directs to far-right causes.

In Utah, Hatch had made a surprisingly strong showing right out of the gate. A January Deseret News/Hinkley Institute of Politics poll showed him running a close second to Rep. John Curtis, at 14 percent, in a race featuring 11 candidates. (One later dropped out.) Hatch also held a significant financial advantage over other candidates like Trent Staggs, the mayor of Riverton who staked out a far-right position aligned with the state’s hardcore MAGA voters. Hatch loaned his campaign nearly $1 million, a figure supplemented by an outside expenditure campaign funded with nearly $2 million in dark money, as well as large donations from his colleagues at the Federalist Society.

The two largest contributions to Hatch’s campaign came from Leo and his wife, who chipped in nearly $20,000, and Steven Calabresi, the Federalist Society co-founder and longtime co-chair, who with his wife also contributed nearly $20,000. (Utah technically has three elections: a nominating convention, a primary, and then the general election. Individuals are allowed to give a maximum of $3,300 for each.)

During his short-lived campaign, Hatch also benefited from more than $1.8 million in independent expenditures on his behalf made by the Conservative Outsider PAC, a super-PAC whose treasurer is Lane Ruhland, a Wisconsin campaign finance lawyer who has appeared at Federalist Society events. Ruhland is perhaps best known for trying to get Kanye West on the presidential ballot in Wisconsin in 2020, while simultaneously representing the Trump campaign in a lawsuit. West’s campaign was seen as something of a dirty trick designed to siphon Black voters away from Joe Biden.

Conservative Outsider PAC’s sole donor is Club for Growth Action, a conservative super-PAC dedicated to “beating big government politicians.” The super-PAC, which can accept unlimited corporate donations, helped Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) fend off a challenge in 2022 from independent candidate Evan McMullin. Its biggest donors this year are billionaire Jeff Yass, a major shareholder in TikTok, who gave the super-PAC $4.5 million in March, and office supply magnate Richard Uihlein, who has anted up $1.5 million this year so far.

Announcement

Club for Growth Action is the only donor to the Conservative Outsider PAC, and the Conservative Outsider PAC has spent money this year on only a single candidate, who happens to be Hatch. But a Club for Growth spokesman emailed me this week to insist that “Club for Growth Action has not engaged in the race,” and that Conservative Outsider was a “separate and independent” organization. “Club for Growth Action has made contributions to Conservatives Outsider PAC,he said, “but we do not direct their independent expenditures.” 

The Conservative Outsider PAC paid for direct mail and ads supporting Hatch. Nonetheless, Hatch failed to collect enough petition signatures to get on the June primary ballot. Late Saturday night, delegates at the state GOP nominating convention, who could have helped him advance to the primary, rejected him handily. As I explained recently, Utah has an idiosyncratic election system:

In the past, the only way to get on the Utah primary ballot was for a candidate to win the votes of at least 40 percent of the delegates to a party’s annual convention. …GOP convention delegates are far more extremist than the average Utah voter. They famously booed Romney during his speech at the 2021 state GOP convention. In 2014, the state legislature changed the law so that candidates can now circumvent the conventions and get on the June primary ballot by submitting petition signatures—a minimum of 28,000 of them for a US Senate race. That’s what Romney did in 2018, when he lost at the GOP convention, but went on to win the statewide primary with more than 70 percent of the vote. 

Hatch’s main rivals, Curtis, pest control CEO Jason Walton, and former Utah House speaker Brad Wilson, all promptly secured their spots on the June ballot weeks ago. But in late March, Hatch admitted to the Deseret News that running for office was harder than he had expected, and he was struggling to come up with signatures. “The daily grind of this is really pretty amazing,” he said. “My father wasn’t here to warn me about that.”

On Friday, the last day for the state to certify signatures, Hatch came up short by about 7,000 signatures. His performance at Saturday’s GOP convention was even worse. He was eliminated in the second round of voting, coming in seventh out of seven candidates with less than 2 percent of the delegate vote. After a late Saturday endorsement from Trump, Trent Staggs won more than 50 percent of the vote and became the only candidate to advance from the convention to the June ballot who hadn’t secured a spot there through signature gathering. In June, state Republican voters will now have four candidates to chose from. The winner of the primary is likely to become Romney’s replacement. (The ultra-red state hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1970.)

So how did someone with so much money and name recognition fail to even get on the primary ballot? Well, there’s a simple answer: This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party. While Hatch is far more conservative than his father was, convention delegates apparently didn’t see him that way. The Deseret News reported that at a recent candidate meet-and-greet, a convention delegate had the nerve to call him a “liberal,” which infuriated Hatch, who insisted he’d “never been called that in his life.”

The Republican scion could not even interest the state’s less militant voters. During the campaign, he touted his experience working for former Attorney General Ed Meese in the Reagan administration and clerking for the failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. But Utah is the nation’s youngest state, with a median age of 31. A huge chunk of the state’s potential voters hadn’t even been born when Reagan left office, making these appeals seem dated. Utah is also one of the fastest-growing states and many of the thousands of people who have moved there since 2018 may not have long, warm, and fuzzy memories of the Hatch family.

Announcement

Hatch himself looked like an anachronism in his social media videos, where he sported a bow tie, while delivering clunky if earnest commentaries about the debt, or calling for US allies to contribute to the defense of Ukraine. Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society may have been able to turn a man accused of sexual assault into a Supreme Court justice, but not even Leo’s magic could turn Brent Hatch into Utah’s junior senator.





Source link

Announcement

What do you think?

Written by Politixia

Announcement
Announcement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Announcement
You Can Buy Lizzie Borden’s House — OK Whatever

You Can Buy Lizzie Borden’s House — OK Whatever

Imran Khan to make his comeback with this comedy film, to be produced by Aamir Khan: Report | Bollywood

Imran Khan to make his comeback with this comedy film, to be produced by Aamir Khan: Report | Bollywood