Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), 83,  announced Tuesday that he would be retiring at the end of his term this year.


Hatch was the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and his seat will open up in January 2019. “Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me that time is soon approaching,” said Hatch, a former amateur boxer, in an online video. “That’s why, after much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I’ve decided to retire at the end of this term.”

His retirement leaves a spot open for former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, if he chooses to run. Speculation has already begun that Romney will make a bid for the seat, while Democrats Jenny Wilson and Mitchell Vice have already declared their candidacies.

Romney has been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump since he took office and has become a White House foe within the Senate GOP caucus. Other Trump skeptics Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona are also retiring after this year.


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“I join the people of Utah in thanking my friend, Senator Orrin Hatch for his more than forty years of service to our great state and nation,” Romney said in a statement on Facebook. “Senator Hatch has represented the interests of Utah with distinction and honor.”

Utah leans Republican but does not favor Trump – he came in third in the state’s GOP caucuses in 2016. While he won the state in the general election, more than 20% of Utah residents voted for former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who ran as a protest candidate. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared that the White House has not yet decided if it will get involved in the race to replace Hatch. “The president certainly has the greatest and deepest amount of respect for Senator Hatch,” Sanders said, before saying that it was “very sad to see Senator Hatch leave.”

While Hatch is popular in Utah, nearly 75% of residents did not want him to run for an eight term. 44% back Romney to replace Hatch out of several potential options.

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