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Hatch challenger officially withdraws from Senate race

It took state Rep. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, about three months to figure out he couldn't beat 28-year U.S. Senate veteran Orrin Hatch, a fellow Republican, next year.

Urquhart officially withdrew from the race for the Republican Senate nomination Wednesday, saying Hatch was too strong financially and politically to have a chance against him.

Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen complimented Urquhart on running a strong, if brief, race.

But Hansen pointed out that on Urquhart's latest Federal Election Commission report the challenger had $3,600.

Hatch has $1.9 million.

"I set mileposts to meet" on a time frame, Urquhart said. "We weren't meeting those mileposts."

The majority whip in the House, Urquhart said he had strong support from fellow GOP legislators, but his support didn't grow much beyond that.

Political insiders said Hatch really didn't worry much about Urquhart, whom he figured not to have much money and who came from a far corner of the state.

But a credible challenge to the veteran Hatch was a worry, for it could open up the gates for some Republican millionaire along the Wasatch Front to take on the senator. And that could be real trouble, they said.

Hansen was naturally glad to see Urquhart out of the race.

But Hansen, a long-time Utah and national GOP strategist, said last fall he wrote a campaign plan for Hatch's sixth election to the Senate in 2006 "and we haven't much changed that" after Urquart got in the race officially July 21.

"We sped up a few things," said Hansen, such as fund raising and seeking early endorsements from well-known Utahns and Republicans. GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. endorsed Hatch several weeks ago, as has fellow U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.

Hatch, who owns a condo and keeps his official residency in Salt Lake City, has a home outside of Washington, D.C., where he spends most of his time. But the senator has been in Utah "most weekends and nearly all of the August congressional) recess," Hansen said.

"The senator has been all over the state" since the first of the year, campaigning and meeting folks, Hansen said.

"One thing a credible challenge does — and Rep. Urquhart's challenge was credible — is that it makes your candidate work harder, be a better candidate and a better public servant," said Hansen.

Urquhart, a private attorney, said: "For us, time is money. And I was spending my time on my legislative duties and my (Senate) campaign. My family finances were suffering."

But he said if he knew now how his Senate race would unfold this summer, "I wouldn't have run."

"I knew it would be an uphill fight" against Hatch, "against his huge financial resources and his universal name identification. I have no idea if any other credible Republican candidate will run against him."

Urquhart indicated he will run for his Utah House seat again next year. He did not rule out seeking higher office in the future.

Democrat Pete Ashdown, founder and head of XMission, and Internet service company and a millionaire himself, has already announced he's running for the Democratic nomination against Hatch next year.