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Hatch's seniority argument

Published March 3, 2012 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By Anthony C. Faber

Olympia Snowe's unexpected announcement that she will not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate from Maine could have far-reaching consequences, possibly turning the tide in Republican U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch's re-election bid in Utah.

Hatch has based his entire campaign on the importance of his becoming chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee rather than Snowe, who would have been next in line should the GOP take control of the Senate this November.

Now that Snowe is no longer in the picture, how does Hatch's need to be re-elected and potentially serve as the committee chairman hold up? His campaign manager, Dave Hansen, responded that the senator's warnings regarding Snowe have only been a "minor argument."

Au contraire. As a sitting state Republican delegate, I try to stay abreast of what is going on in politics. Last month, I attended a town hall meeting with Hatch, who stressed the importance of not allowing Snowe, arguably the most liberal Republican in the Senate, to chair the committee.

At the meeting, the senator said that the only way to ensure that a true conservative would be running the committee would be to re-elect him to a seventh term. Snowe's announcement voids what has, up until now, been Hatch's main selling point.

Interesting how one can throw a Senate colleague under the bus in town hall meetings and then say, in the wake of Snowe's announcement, that "her presence in the Senate will be missed." Perhaps Hatch meant that he will miss her now that he can no longer use her in town hall meetings to bolster his campaign.

Should Hatch not be re-elected, and the Republicans still gain control of the Senate, well-respected conservative Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho would be the new Finance Committee chairman. Crapo is already being touted in conservative circles as better qualified than Hatch for the position. So there is actually a good reason not to return Hatch.

Hatch has served longer than any other senator from Utah — nearly one third of the time since statehood in 1896.

Hatch has served Utah well but he cannot serve forever. Now his seniority matters less to Utah than ever, but Hatch seems like the professional athlete who just doesn't know when it's time to hang it up.

To quote the senator from his initial campaign in 1976, "What do you call a senator who's served in office for 18 years? You call him home."

Anthony C. Faber is a Bountiful physician and a state Republican Party delegate.