With new leadership PAC, Rep. Chaffetz has Sen. Orrin Hatch in his sights

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has formed a new leadership PAC to funnel campaign money to fellow Republicans, upping his political profile as he contemplates a primary challenge to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). 

Named BudgetHawks.com, Chaffetz said the PAC came together in the week after the midterm elections and that he intends to ramp up fundraising activities early next year.  

ADVERTISEMENT
"Congress is a team sport, and I want to do everything I can to help my fellow Republicans," Chaffetz told the Ballot Box. "I was actually amazed that BudgetHawks.com was available." 

Chaffetz said he intends to prioritize candidates "who have shown a commitment to cutting the budget deficit."

As for a primary challenge to Hatch, the congressman said he's thinking about it and will make a decision sometime next year.  

"He's a good senator, he's a conservative senator," Chaffetz said of Hatch. "I still might run against him."

While Chaffetz didn't point to any specific policy positions espoused by Hatch that have him weighing a primary challenge, he did say it might simply be time to turn the page. 

"He's asking voters to keep him in for 42 years," said Chaffetz. "He'll be 84 years old at the end of his next term." 

In response, Hatch spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier said, "To paraphrase Sen. Hatch's good friend, President Ronald Reagan, he's certainly not going to exploit Jason's youth and inexperience for political purposes." 

Tea Party groups in the state have signaled that they're gunning for Hatch in 2012 and intend to do it much the same way they ousted Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who was denied the Republican nomination earlier this year at the state party convention. 

Hatch, meanwhile, is already gearing up his reelection effort. 

The chairman of Utah's Republican Party, Dave Hansen, announced over the weekend that he's leaving his post in January to run Hatch's reelection campaign. 

"It’s certainly not going to be a cakewalk, and [Hatch] knows that," Hansen told the Salt Lake Tribune. "We all know that. But he’s been a good U.S. senator and there’s ample reasons to have him continue." 

-Updated at 1:48 p.m.