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Hatch Announces Retirement, Capping Off Four Decade Political Career

Julia Ritchey

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch has announced he will retire at the end of his term in 2018, ending a four-decade career as the longest serving GOP senator in U.S. history. 

Hatch made the announcement Tuesday afternoon in a video recording released on Twitter.

Wearing a black suit, a red tie and a flag pin, the 83-year-old Republican said the time was right to call it a career.

“I’ve always been a fighter," he said. "I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I brought that fighting spirit with me to Washington,” he said. “But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And, for me, that time is soon approaching.”

Hatch said although he’d miss the Senate, he looked forward to spending more time with his family, especially his wife Elaine.

The announcement caps off a year of breathless speculation about the future of Hatch’s seat, which he’s held onto since 1976.

Other top Utah officials — from Congresswoman Mia Love to Gov. Gary Herbert — were quick to issue statements praising the senator’s long tenure.

“Few have been as dedicated to serving the people of Utah as our good Senator, Orrin Hatch,” said Herbert. “For seven terms, he has represented the people of Utah with strength and dignity. We are grateful for his hard work and for his untiring effort on behalf of our state.”

Mitt Romney, who’s thinking of running for the seat, issued a statement, too. Without addressing his own plans, Romney said Hatch had represented the interests of Utah with “distinction and honor.”
Hatch is the Senate’s President pro tempore — putting him third in line from the presidency. He also serves as chairman of the Senate Finance and Judiciary Committees.

The senator had made no secret of his goal to help push through the GOP’s sweeping tax overhaul as a capstone to his long career, which he did shortly before Christmas.

Hatch’s retirement is sure to increase pressure on Romney, who’s often been more critical of President Trump. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was too soon to say who Trump might support in Utah's Senate race.

“Obviously, I don’t think we’ve made a determination in terms of campaigning, but the president certainly has the greatest and deepest amount of respect for Sen. Hatch and his over four decades of experience,” said Sanders.

Hatch himself is not totally leaving the public sphere, and hinted at future projects. A new website for the Orrin Hatch Foundation went live in recent days.

“I may be leaving the Senate, but the next chapter of my public service is just beginning," he said.

Hatch, who famously campaigned against a senator he said had served too long during his first run for Senate, is finally returning home.

This story will be updated. 

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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