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Sen. Orrin Hatch announces he will retire

Posted at 12:15 PM, Jan 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-02 20:27:58-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Sen. Orrin Hatch has announced that he will not seek re-election.

In a video message posted on Twitter, Utah's longest-serving senator spoke about his accomplishments and then announced he would not seek re-election.

Hatch declared: "only in a nation like ours could someone like me—the scrappy son of a simple carpenter—grow up to become a United States Senator."

He went over his landmark accomplishments including his work on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the drug industry, and his powerful role in confirming every current member of the U.S. Supreme Court. He also talked about his work on religious freedom and the tax reform bill just signed by President Trump.

"When the President visited Utah last month, he said I was a fighter. I've always been a fighter. I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I brought that fighting spirit with me to Washington," he said.

"Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching," he said on the video. "That’s why, after much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I've decided to retire at the end of this term. Although I will miss serving you in the Senate, I look forward to spending more time with family, especially my sweet wife Elaine, whose unwavering love and support made all of this possible."

"I'm deeply grateful for the privilege you've given me to serve as your Senator these last four decades. I may be leaving the Senate, but the next chapter in my public service is just beginning."

The move leaves an opening for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to run for his now open seat. Romney's name has been repeatedly floated as a potential replacement for Hatch. As former chief of the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee, Romney enjoyed immense popularity in Utah. He won the state with 73-percent of the vote during his 2012 presidential run.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Romney thanked Sen. Hatch for his years of service, but did not indicate if he would file to run for the seat.

Tuesday was the first day that federal candidates could file for signature-gathering. It was unclear who would jump into the race.

Derek Miller, the CEO of World Trade Center Utah, was spotted by FOX 13 outside the Lt. Governor's Office as he was on his way to a meeting with the governor. Miller said he was not planning to file if Mitt Romney ran for the now-open Senate seat.

"If Gov. Romney wants to run, I support that candidacy," he said.

Asked about what happens if Romney doesn't, Miller told FOX 13: "Well, Katy bar the door! If Mitt Romney decides he’s not running I think you’ll have a lot of people in the state of Utah -- myself included -- who are giving that very serious thought."

Hatch is the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history. Recently, he has faced criticism for his decades in office. It was a central theme of the campaign of one of his opponents, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson (whose father, former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson, ran against Hatch in 1982).

In a statement, Wilson thanked Sen. Hatch for his years of service but also made a veiled reference to Romney being perceived as the "heir apparent" to the senate seat.

"I'm eager for this debate over contrasting visions for Utah and our country. It’s time the red carpet is rolled out for every day Utahns, not just corporations and special interests," she said in a statement. "This U.S. Senate seat belongs to the people of Utah."