The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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October 23, 2013

In Utah, tea party favorite Sen. Lee faces GOP backlash over government shutdown


"He's done everything he said he was going to do — one of the rare politicians, I might add, who has kept all of his promises," said David Kirkham, a tea party organizer who last year unsuccessfully challenged Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican.

But Lee has not cultivated the party's business and establishment wings. Consider John Price, a businessman who once sat on the Republican National Committee and later served in Africa as an ambassador under Bush.

"With Mike Lee, no matter how many times I see him, he still doesn't know who I am," Price said. "He treats me like I don't exist."

Former Republican governor Jon Huntsman Jr., a 2012 presidential candidate who once employed Lee as counsel in the governor's office, said Lee has bucked a trend of senators who work to grow this small state in a way that makes people proud.

"You don't have ideological wack-jobs," Huntsman said. "For all of its labeling as a red state, underneath it all Utah is a pretty pragmatic Western state, a just-get-it-done ethos."

Many business leaders here said they wish Lee were more like Hatch, a conservative with a penchant for working across the aisle. In a statement, Hatch said the two "might not always agree," but he did not criticize Lee. "There's a unity of purpose amongst all Republicans that Obamacare is a dog of a law," Hatch said.

In the budget debate, Lee championed repealing a medical-device tax that is part of the health-care law. So, one might imagine the senator would find support at Merit Medical, an international device manufacturer based in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan.

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