Orrin Hatch May Face Primary Challenge From Mike Lee’s Former Chief Of Staff

Bill Clark/CQPHO

Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) former chief of staff is gearing up for a possible primary challenge to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

Boyd Matheson tells Politico that he’s looking at a run whether or not the 83-year-old Hatch retires, framing it as a generational more than an ideological challenge.

“We’re backwards facing and backwards looking,” he said. “To me, it’s about what’s next.”

Matheson recently met with former top Trump adviser Steve Bannon, as well as David Bossie, another rabble-rousing conservative former Trump adviser who still has the president’s ear.

Matheson was a top staffer for Lee when he unseated moderate then-Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) in 2010.

Hatch is expected to decide whether or not to run for reelection after New Year’s. If he runs again, Matheson could be a formidable challenger, though Hatch easily dispatched a bevy of Tea Party challengers last time he ran in 2012. If Hatch retires, Mitt Romney is seriously considering a run — which Matheson said wouldn’t deter him.

“Mitt has lots of great credentials,” he said, “but what’s the vision?”

The race could be one of many establishment-populist tests in 2018 that’s dogging the GOP.