Yes, Tea Party organizer David Kirkham is “very seriously” considering running against Sen. Orrin Hatch for the GOP Senate nomination next year.
But not until after Track Day on Sept. 10.
What’s Track Day, one may ask?
It’s Kirkham’s power car restoration business’s annual event at the Miller Sports Park where his customers from around the world come to enjoy the fun and trills of driving a high-performance automobile on a professional racetrack.
“This really is a big event for my company,” said Kirkham, talking to UtahPolicy by phone from his auto shop with banging and hissing noises in the background.
“After Sept. 10 I will think about this,” said Kirkham, who was just a regular citizen until the Tea Party movement broke forth two years ago.
He got involved in organizing the effort, and since has become kind of a spokesman for it – although by definition the Tea Party does not support or belong to any established political party nor have elected or appointed leaders.
Kirkham’s articulation of the Tea Party goals, however, brought him to the forefront. He was sought out by the media.
And political leaders appointed him to the GRAMA Working Group last spring, an effort to try to work out reforms to Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act.
Tea Partiers and liberals joined in condemning the GOP Legislature’s HB477, an ultimately-failed effort to change GRAMA.
In any case, it’s fair to say that Hatch has heavily lobbied Kirkham to endorse his 2012 re-election, something that Kirkham has declined to do – even to the point of telling local news media that he doesn’t think that Hatch should get a record-setting seventh six-year term.
When Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah – who was generally believed would challenge Hatch for the GOP nomination – decided last week to run instead for re-election to the U.S. House, “a lot of folks were left waiting at the alter,” Kirkham said Tuesday.
Tea Partiers and other conservative Republicans now are racing to find another good candidate to challenge Hatch.
“A lot of people, a lot, are leaning on me to run” for the U.S. Senate next year, Kirkham said.
But he’s had to put such pressure behind him, at least until after Sept. 10, he said Tuesday.
“If I were to run – and I preface that with a capital IF, a massive IF – I would work very, very hard and start now,” he said.
That means trying to educated and turn out folks to the March 2012 Republican Party neighborhood caucuses, where the 3,500 state convention delegates will be selected.
Hatch, with his campaign manager Dave Hansen, a life-long GOP operative and former state GOP chairman, are openly recruiting Hatch supporters to attend, vote for and be Hatch delegates.
Hansen says if it is possible to “stack” the caucuses with a candidates’ supporters, it will be done for Hatch next year. Hansen said after Chaffetz got out of the Senate race that no matter who runs against Hatch next year in the Republican Party, Hatch will be ready for them and defeat them, either in the convention with 60 percent of the delegate vote, or in the June GOP primary election.
“If I run,” said Kirkham, “I will be doing the exact same thing Hatch is doing, in terms of getting ready for the convention; work to get people to the caucuses.”
But the overall campaign slant may be a bit different.
Hatch is looking for pro-Hatch attendees and supporters.
Kirkham said he and his supporters will just be trying to get people to the caucuses.
“If the people are educated, and if they turn out, I have great faith in the people picking the best candidates to run,” said Kirkham.
“If they show up, they will vote for the right person – the people (he’s speaking as if with a capital P) will make the right decision.”
That’s what Tea Partiers – who flooded the 2010 GOP caucus night – did with Sen. Bob Bennett, said Kirkham.
Bennett, of course, was kicked out of office in the May 2010 state Republican Convention when he finished third behind Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee, the ultimate winner.
Bennett’s ouster was laid at the feet of new Tea Party-type state GOP delegates.
“We didn’t specifically ask anyone to be anti-Bennett,” said Kirkham. “That was never our strategy. We said, “Please show up.” We said that to everyone.
In fact, Kirkham said he would prefer that some other “good candidate” got in the race against Hatch – he’s not chomping at the bit to take this on.
Does he feel he’s being forced into this race?
“I don’t think anyone can be forced to run. But a lot of people are leaning on me” to take on the race, he added.
“I wish I had a better answer for you. But I don’t. For me, I have to get through Track Day. And then serious thought will go into it” – a race against Hatch for the U.S. Senate.