Why are Liljenquist’s former colleagues split on his candidacy?

Liljenquist’s former colleagues are evenly split on his candidacy, but it’s hard to explain the split using ideology.

Today, Dan Liljenquist announced that 13 of the 22 Republicans in the state senate have endorsed his challenge against Orrin Hatch. I thought I’d do a quick comparison of the 13 who endorsed him to the 9 who did not.

To focus this a bit, I’ll only look at those state senators who actually served with Dan Liljenquist. Senators Weiler, Anderson, and Osmond didn’t begin their legislative service until after Liljenquist had stepped down; they replaced Senators Liljenquist, Stowell, and Buttars. If we ignore these three, that leaves 19 Republican state senators who (a) served with Liljenquist and (b) are still in the senate.

Of these 19 Republican senate colleagues, 10 have endorsed Dan Liljenquist (according to the list of endorsers at Liljenquist’s website), implying that 9 have declined to do so.

This table shows the name of each of the 19 Republican state senators and whether they have endorsed Dan Liljenquist (according to Liljenquist’s website). The table also gives each senator’s 2011 ideology score (where a more conservative voting record produces a higher score; most Senate Democrats have scores well below zero). The table is sorted by ideology score. Take a look:

Senator Liljenquist endorsement Ideology score (2011)
Hillyard, Lyle W. Yes 57.9
Van Tassell, Kevin T. No 61
Christensen, Allen M. No 66.8
Hinkins, David P. Yes 68.2
Knudson, Peter C. No 71.4
Bramble, Curtis S. No 74.1
Okerlund, Ralph Yes 74.1
Adams, J. Stuart Yes 77.8
Reid, Stuart C. Yes 78.2
Urquhart, Stephen H. Yes 79.6
Niederhauser, Wayne L. Yes 79.8
Thatcher, Daniel W. No 80
Stevenson, Jerry W. Yes 81
Waddoups, Michael G. No 84
Valentine, John L. No 85.5
Madsen, Mark B. No 90.7
Stephenson, Howard A. Yes 93.8
Dayton, Margaret Yes 97.3
Jenkins, Scott K. No 99.5

For  comparison, Dan Liljenquist’s ideology score in 2011 was 84.9.

What’s striking is that there is no pattern at all when it comes to ideology scores. The average ideology score of those endorsing Liljenquist (78.8) is roughly the same as the average of those not endorsing him (79.2).

Of the two Republican Senators with the highest ideology scores (Dayton and Jenkins), one endorsed him and one did not. Of the two Republican Senators with the lowest scores (Hillyard and Van Tassell), one endorsed him and one did not.

Liljenquist’s former colleagues are evenly split on his candidacy, but it’s hard to explain the split using ideology. 10 have endorsed him and 9 have not, but the reason for this split is not clear.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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2 Responses to Why are Liljenquist’s former colleagues split on his candidacy?

  1. Have you cross referenced this with which Senators have received campaign contributions from Hatch or his supporters/PACS? How Liljenquist may have voted on bills sponsored by non-endorsers?

    • Adam Brown says:

      (Updated with some clarifications.)

      Wow. That’s cynical. But this is politics, where cynicism is sometimes appropriate, so let’s take a look at your two questions.

      (1) Is Hatch buying off state senators with campaign contributions? I just took a quick look. I can’t spot a single contribution by Hatch or a surrogate to a single state senator. Maybe I’m just missing it. See for yourself at disclosures.utah.gov. (Every senator has a $2500 contribution from “Republican Senate Campaign Committee,” but that’s a state organization–that’s not the National Republican Senatorial Committee.) Flipping it around, I also don’t see evidence that Dan Liljenquist is buying off the endorsers by making contributions to their campaigns.

      (2) Are state senators retaliating against Liljenquist for voting against their bills? Highly unlikely. Liljenquist voted “no” only 14 times during the 2011 session (out of 940 votes held that year). Meanwhile, the senators listed above as not endorsing him sponsored 76 bills that came to a vote that year. Even if every one of Liljenquist’s “no” votes was against those bills (which is unlikely–I’m guessing they were against Democratic bills, but I’d have to check), he still can’t have offended all of them with only 14 “no” votes. Flipping it around, this is also evidence that the endorsers probably aren’t rewarding Liljenquist for supporting their bills.

      Good questions, but those appear to be unlikely scenarios. These endorsements might just reflect how much trust various legislators have in Liljenquist to do a better job than Hatch.

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