Mark Shurtleff (R)
Bob Bennett (R)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Legal Newsline)-Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says he is gearing up for a tough fight to unseat fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett.
Speaking to Legal Newsline, the Republican attorney general said he is encouraged by the response he recently had at the Utah Republican Party's Organizing Convention.
"It was a great chance to see how the message is getting out," Shurtleff said, "and the reaction we were getting was pretty good."
Shurtleff said he is polling well among party delegates and primary voters in a potential race against Bennett, the three-term senator, in 2010.
"Bennett is vulnerable," Shurtleff said in an interview at the summer meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in Colorado last week. "He is not in touch with the people out in Utah."
Among other things, Shurtleff said Bennett should not be the Republican senatorial nominee in 2010 because of the key role he played in drafting the federal bailout of the nation's financial industry earlier this year.
Shutleff said the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief program, or TARP, runs counter to the fiscal conservatism that most Utahans expect from their elected officials.
The TARP program, which is aimed at improving banks' liquidity, is "a perfect example of government reaching beyond its power, compelling the taxpayers to go into debt to give to Wall Street," the attorney general has said.
"I appreciate his service, and I have supported him in the past," Shurtleff said of Bennett. "But he is part of the inside Washington tax-and-spend policies."
As for his fundraising, Shurtleff said he hopes to report raising at least $100,000 in campaign finance papers to be filed mid-July.
"Our goal is to raise $2 million," he said. "We believe we can win with $1 million; I don't need to match (Bennett) dollar-for-dollar, but if we go into a primary I will have to get some TV ads up in the five weeks between the convention and the primary and that is costly."
The attorney general said he does not plan to run for another term as AG. As for who his successor should be if he wins a seat in Washington, Shurtleff said he wants someone who knows the attorney general's office and its programs well rather than a newcomer.
Shurtleff said his chief deputy, Kirk Torgensen, does not want to run for the post but could fill out the two years that would remain on his unexpired term if he is elected to the U.S. Senate.
"He doesn't want to get into the whole political arena, but he might be a good appointee for two years," Shurtleff said.
Bennett is the ranking Republican member on the powerful Senate Rules Committee and serves as counsel to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Shurtleff handily won a third term as the Beehive State's chief legal officer in November.
He was challenged by Democrat Jean Welch Hill, an attorney for the state Board of Education, and Libertarian W. Andrew McCullough, a First Amendment lawyer.
Shurtleff won the race, taking nearly 70 percent of the vote. He was elected to a second term in 2004 with 68 percent of the vote.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.