Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is challenging incumbent Sen. Robert Bennett, criticizing Bennet’s pro-TARP vote on bank bailout

CQ Politics:

Bennett, who says he is taking Shurtleff “very seriously,” is hardly shying away from trumpeting his seniority as he rounds out his third six-year Senate term in the seat he first won in 1992.

Dan Jones, co-owner of Dan Jones and Associates, a public opinion research firm in Salt Lake City, said Bennett could argue that “seniority isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing.” If Shurtleff were to win, he would likely be nearly last in seniority in the chamber, which might not get him very good committee assignments. Bennett, on the other hand, holds a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee, is ranking Republican on the Rules and Administration Committee, and also is a member of both the top-tier Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Energy and Natural Resources committees.

Bennett jumped right in after Shurtleff’s candidacy announcement to flex his party establishment muscle. That same day, Bennett had a television ad on the air with an endorsement by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a figure popular in Utah because of the Mormon religion he shares with most residents and his successful stewardship of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Romney, in the ad, called Bennett a “conservative giant.”

Bennett endorsed Romney in his bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, in which Romney dominated the Utah primary. Shurtleff backed Arizona Sen. John McCain , who was trounced in that primary but won the Republican nomination and went on to easily carry the state over Obama in the general election.

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