This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch said Thursday he would run for re-election, though his office later hedged on whether he would ultimately seek an eighth term.
"I'm planning on [running] right now," Hatch told CNN on Thursday. "That's what my current plans are."
The 82-year-old Utah senator had promised in his 2012 campaign that it would be his last, though he later walked that back saying he may seek another term if he's close to passing a overhaul of the tax code. Hatch is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history.
He told CNN that President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have both urged him to seek re-election.
"His pitch is he needs me," Hatch said of Trump, according to CNN. "Things are going to be just fine."
Hatch's comments came a day after Trump picked former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Russia, and two days after Hatch and Huntsman huddled in the U.S. Capitol.
Huntsman had been seen as a possible challenger to Hatch in 2018, and a Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll of Utah voters in January showed Huntsman would easily best the senator, 62 percent to 21 percent. Even among Republicans, Huntsman beat Hatch 49 percent to 35 percent.
That same survey showed 78 percent of voters opposed Hatch seeking re-election.
Hatch told CNN that Huntsman was a "longtime friend" and didn't believe he would have mounted a campaign against him.
"I don't think he would have ever run against me," Hatch said. "He didn't really want to run for Senate."
Hatch's office said later Thursday that the senator wasn't firm in his decision to run again.
"Senator Hatch appreciates the encouragement he's receiving to run for re-election," Hatch's office said in a statement. "While he has not made a final decision about his plans for 2018, he has made plans thus far to ensure all options remain on the table."
Gov. Gary Herbert praised Hatch and said he wasn't surprised.
"Senator Hatch has been a very great ally for the state of Utah," Herbert said. "He's certainly been there and served with distinction for 40 years and will still do another two years."
It's his decision, Herbert added.
"I don't think it's too surprising because we've seen some signs of this over the last number of months of him talking about he may change his mind from saying he won't run again."
Hatch's comments irked some Utahns who say the senator is going back on his promise.
Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute, called Hatch a "liar" on Twitter.
"Pretty much the only people encouraging Sen. Hatch to run for office yet again are the many barnacles who are firmly stuck to his senatorial ship lobbyists and politicos who profit off of the power he has accumulated," Boyack said in an interview. "Utahns by and large are very ready to consider a new option."
Hatch first ran for office in 1976 and defeated Democratic Sen. Frank Moss, arguing that his 18 years in office were enough and he should come home.
Tribune reporter Lee Davidson contributed to this story
Editor's note: The Salt Lake Tribune is owned and published by Paul Huntsman, the brother of former Gov. Jon Huntsman.