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Washington • The former general counsel to Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman will serve as Sen. Orrin Hatch's top aide, replacing Michael Kennedy, who had led the Utah Republican's office for nearly four years.

The new chief of staff, Rob Porter, has been Hatch's deputy chief of staff since March. Kennedy, a former federal lobbyist, is returning to the private sector.

"Michael has been a steadfast and trusted leader of my team, and it's been a wonderful experience having him by my side through the battles we've faced for nearly four years," Hatch said in a statement. "Michael is leaving some pretty big shoes to fill, and I'm confident Rob will fill them as my new chief of staff."

Porter previously worked for Sen. Mike Lee as his chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Porter also studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar.

Hatch also announced that legislative policy adviser John Tanner will serve as the office's deputy legislative director.

Thomas Burr