The Sutherland Institute's Boyd Matheson says he's considering a primary challenge to Sen. Orrin Hatch in 2018. The news comes just one day after a group aligned with former White House strategist Steve Bannon said they would recruit a challenger for Hatch next year.
Politico reports Matheson, who formerly served as Sen. Mike Lee's chief of staff before taking over the conservative think tank, met with Bannon and Steve Bossie, head of Citizens United, last week in Washington, D.C.
In a Monday interview, Matheson said he is open to running regardless of whether Hatch, 83, seeks reelection. Those close to the senator, who has been serving since 1977, expect him to make a final decision shortly after the New Year. The 51-year-old Matheson cast the incumbent as a figure of the past, and the would-be candidate made clear in an interview that he planned to tap into a growing frustration with the party’s failure to advance a legislative agenda.
"The one thing that's uniting people across the spectrum is frustration with the lack of progress in Congress," Matheson said. "They're kind of functioning in this status quo universe."
“We’re backwards facing and backwards looking," he said. "To me, it’s about what’s next.”
Should he run, Matheson would likely win support from an array of influential conservatives, including Bossie, who served as President Donald Trump’s deputy campaign manager. Matheson has also met with Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, Senate Conservatives Fund President Ken Cuccinelli, and Club for Growth leader David McIntosh. When they huddled in Washington last week, Matheson and Bannon discussed how a 2018 campaign would play out.
"He is going to be the consensus conservative candidate among all the outside groups and will have a lot of the financial support that's out there,” said Bossie. “He's going to be someone people coalesce around very quickly."
Hatch has not yet announced whether he will run for another term, but has previously said he would make that decision by the end of the year. UtahPolicy.com previously reported that if Hatch decided not to run, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was interested in a run to replace him. Utah Rep. Chris Stewart also has said he would like to run if Hatch decided to step down.
Hatch will be 84 at the end of his current term. In 2012, he vowed that he would step down at the end of this term, but has since backed off that pledge. Hatch spokesperson Matt Whitlock tweeted on Sunday that if Hatch decides to run again, "he will win."