WASHINGTON: US Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said on Tuesday he will not seek re-election in November, opening the door to a potential Senate bid by Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate and one of the party’s harshest critics of President Donald Trump.
“Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching,” Hatch said in a video statement posted on Twitter. “That’s why after much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I’ve decided to retire at the end of this term.”
Hatch, 83, of Utah, is the most senior Republican in the US Senate, having first been elected in 1976. He is chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee. Trump has credited him with helping shepherd a massive tax overhaul through Congress last month.
Hatch steps down amid speculation that Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran against Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012, would run for his Senate seat. Romney, who is a Mormon, has close ties to Utah, a state with a majority-Mormon population.
In a statement on Twitter, Romney praised Hatch for his service but he did not say if he would enter the Senate race.