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Conservatives tell Hatch to stand up

AMERICAN FORK — Sen. Orrin Hatch has seen a lot in his 34 years in office. But there's still one dream that hasn't come to fruition.

Hatch, the most senior Republican in the Senate, has never seen a fiscally conservative majority in the Senate.

"I am so sick and tired of not having enough people to help us fight in Washington," he said to a 300 person audience at a town hall meeting at American Fork Junior High School last week.

For many Utah conservatives, Hatch struck a chord.

"All we really wanted was someone to listen to us," said David Kirkham, organizer of the first tea party in Utah, "and Sen. Hatch did."

But some former supporters can't wait any longer for fiscal conservatism.

"You are about as out of touch as it gets," American Fork resident Sarah Beeson told Hatch. "It is about time for someone to stand up and say no more spending."

Beeson's remarks garnered the loudest applause during the meeting, but brought a warning from Hatch: If far-right conservatives splinter from the Republican Party, they don't stand a chance in state and federal elections.

"I think you should work within the party to make it more conservative," Hatch said.

But no matter how conservative the party, Republicans will still have to compromise with Democrats on all issues, including health care and taxes. Hatch cited that every president from Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush had to make compromises.

American Fork resident Robert Godfrey agreed with Hatch that conservatives need to stick together.

"You can't break into independent factions," Godfrey said. "You have to support the party. It's like a football team. You have to work together."

Now, Hatch and other Republicans are focusing some of their efforts on young voters, who recently helped Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., win his senatorial seat.

With a filibustering minority, Hatch hopes to bring even more conservative support to Washington in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

"This meeting just renews my efforts," Hatch said. "I think many of (these people) have a right to be upset. If we could get enough fiscal conservatives, we could get stuff done in Congress that has never been done."

Prior to Wednesday, in the past year, only Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, had held town hall meetings, while others, including Hatch and Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, held a town hall meeting electronically, which they say reaches more people. Hatch plans to hold more town hall meetings like the one held in American Fork.

e-mail: eteichert@desnews.com