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Editorial: Senate seat is not Hatch's to give away

Published March 30, 2017 7:45 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After sitting in the same chair for 40 years, it is understandable that one might come to believe, and to behave as if, one owns that piece of furniture.

But, no matter how comfortable Orrin Hatch may have become in the U.S. Senate, the fact remains that the seat he occupies does not belong to him. It belongs to the people of Utah.

Hatch also has no business telling the voters who we should choose in his stead.

The more Hatch gives those voters reason to believe that he doesn't really care what they think, the more they have the right, if not the duty, to pull it out from under him and give it to someone else.

As part of his coy cat-and-mouse game, Hatch said the other day that he was still undecided as to running again. Even though he had said the last time around that his seventh term would be his last.

But, he said, he might be more likely to stand down if someone he liked — say, former Massachusetts Gov. and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney — would run.

Seats in the Senate — and the House, and the Legislature — are not property to be willed to a favorite son or other chosen one. They are public offices to be filled at the pleasure of the electorate.

That power is effectively taken away, though, when long-term incumbents openly waffle over their decision on when to hang it up. As long as he maybe possibly might be running, Hatch's fund-raising ability, name recognition and other perks of inertia make it overwhelmingly difficult for any would-be challengers — or successors — to gear up, especially for a statewide race.

Anointing an heir apparent has pretty much the same effect. All the other possible candidates will see their path to victory disappear, and many of the state's best and brightest, many of whom would serve the state and nation quite well, will quit before they start.

As 2018 has hurtled toward us, Hatch, and various contributors to The Salt Lake Tribune's op-ed columns, have suggested that his service to Utah, to the nation and to various segments of the economy is so unsurpassably wonderful that the heavens might fall if he has the bad judgment to retire.

Hatch came to the Senate the same year Jimmy Carter came to the White House. Carter has spent the last 36 years building homes for poor people and wiping out diseases in Africa. Hatch is still right where we put him all those years ago, aiding and abetting a $20 trillion debt while reforming neither the health care system nor the tax code.

Enough already.






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