UPDATE — 1/14, 4:40 p.m. EST: The New York Times reported Sunday Mitt Romney told prominent Utah businessman Kem Gardner last week that he will run for the Beehive State’s open U.S. Senate seat in November.
Commenting on Romney’s anti-Trump position, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Utah will support the 2012 GOP presidential nominee when he calls out the current president for any perceived misgivings.
“I think if he wanted to be a check, it won’t hurt him here like it has others,” Cox said. “He could do it from ‘day one’ and he’d be fine.”
After serving Utah in the U.S. Senate for seven terms, Republican Orrin Hatch announced his intent to retire from public office on Tuesday.
Mr. Hatch, 83, is the longest-serving GOP senator in the upper chamber, having first been elected in 1976.
Touting his 42 years of service and highlighting his contributions to the recent passage of the landmark tax reform bill, Hatch thanked his wife, family, and Utah residents for their support and said:
“I’ve always been a fighter, but every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me that time is soon approaching. After much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I’ve decided to retire at the end of this term.”
Hatch’s retirement paves the way for 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to succeed him in the Senate.
An occasional and harsh critic of President Trump, Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, denounced then-candidate Trump in 2016 as a “fraud” and a “phony” in a searing speech at the University of Utah in 2016.
Trump briefly considered Romney to fill the role as secretary of state, but later nominated Texas businessman Rex Tillerson. Although Romney praised the early days of the Trump White House, he later bitterly criticized the president over what Romney described as insufficient condemnation of violence at a white supremacist protests which erupted in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017.
Although Romney has remained silent over his political intentions, speculation persists he will announce a bid to replace Hatch as Utah’s junior senator, serving along side the GOP’s Mike Lee. Following Hatch’s announcement, Romney changed the location on his Twitter account from Massachusetts to Holladay, Utah, where he owns a home.
A Pennsylvania native, Hatch grew up in poverty and became the first in his family to graduate from college. A Brigham Young graduate, Hatch obtained a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh Law School, briefly practiced law in Pittsburgh and relocated to Utah in 1969.
Successful in his first attempt at public office, Hatch defeated Frank Moss in the 1976 Utah Senate election and has maintained strong support for Utah residents, rarely facing any serious challenger from within or outside his party.
A passionate foe of abortion and a devout Mormon, Hatch has alternatively chaired Senate Committees on Health and Human Resources, Judiciary, and Finance since 1981. Earning a reputation for negotiating effectively with the Democrats, Hatch is responsible for authoring over 40 bi-partisan pieces of legislation into law and overseeing 750 bills become law.
Hatch currently chairs the Finance Committee and serves as the president pro tempore of the Senate, making him the third in line to the presidency.
[Deseret News] [Good Morning America via Yahoo] [Photo courtesy AP via Politico]