Hatch vows to ‘sprint to the finish’ in his final year as senator

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch at the Washington County GOP Lincoln Day Breakfast, St. George, Utah, Feb. 17, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — “To me, 2018 is not a victory lap, but a sprint to the finish,” U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch told Washington County Republicans at Saturday’s Lincoln Day breakfast.

The 83-year-old Hatch, now in the final year of his seven-term, 42-year stint as senator, promised to keep working hard until the end.

“I plan to finish strong,” he said. “My plan is to go big and to go home.”

Read more: Orrin Hatch announces retirement

Attendees at the Washington County GOP Lincoln Day Breakfast, St. George, Utah, Feb. 17, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Hatch called the first year of the Donald Trump presidential administration a “banner year” and highlighted a few noteworthy events and accomplishments that happened during 2017.

The first event Hatch mentioned was the reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument.

“The president said he would work with me to fix this disaster, and I never let him forget it,” Hatch said.

Trump signed an executive order in early December reducing the acreage of Bears Ears by 85 percent and also trimming Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by about half.

“The president’s order was a meaningful first step in scaling back federal overreach,” Hatch said.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch at the Washington County GOP Lincoln Day Breakfast, St. George, Utah, Feb. 17, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Hatch, who serves as chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, also spoke of the massive federal tax overhaul passed in December.

Hatch, who sponsored the legislation, said he worked with many other officials to reform the “very outdated” tax code and replace it with one that is both “simple and fair.”

“The end result is better jobs, better paychecks and higher savings,” he said. “The proof is in the paycheck.”

“Make no mistake, my tax bill was a huge victory for the American people,” he said.

Read more: It’s a done deal: Congress wraps up massive tax package

Hatch also lauded the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court last April as an important victory for conservatives.

He promised to continue to work with officials to reach bipartisan solutions on ongoing immigration and budgetary issues.

“The ticking shot clock is a constant reminder of how much I have left to accomplish,” he said, thanking those in attendance for their ongoing support.

Following Hatch’s keynote speech, which was received with a standing ovation, several other top elected officials spoke to the audience of approximately 300 gathered for the two-hour event held at the Dixie Center St. George.

In keeping with the Lincoln Day theme, several speakers mentioned or quoted Abraham Lincoln during their remarks.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert at the Washington County GOP Lincoln Day Breakfast, St. George, Utah, Feb. 17, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Gov. Gary Herbert used the Lincoln quote “Work, work, work, is the main thing” multiple times in touting Utah’s work ethic, which he likened to that of “The Little Engine that Could” of children’s literature.

Hebert said the Wall Street Journal once called Utah “The brightest star on the American flag” and said the rest of the country could benefit from emulating Utah’s example.

“Washington can learn a lot from the state of Utah,” Herbert said, indicating he was paraphrasing what Mitt Romney had said the day before when he officially announced his candidacy for Hatch’s Senate seat.

Read more: Mitt Romney tells St. George audience ‘Utah has a lot to teach the nation’

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart at the Washington County GOP Lincoln Day Breakfast, St. George, Utah, Feb. 17, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, who has represented Utah’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013, was also a featured speaker.

Stewart quoted from the fourth verse of the National Anthem and outlined several reasons he is grateful to be able to represent Utah as a congressman. He also lauded the GOP tax reform bill and Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court and said he would continue to support efforts to bolster the military. “We are the defender of freedom of the world, whether we like it or not,” he said.

Washington County GOP party chairman Jimi Kestin also spoke briefly, thanking those in attendance for their support and encouraging them to support the ideals and principles of the Republican party.

Kestin said the party remains committed to favoring the caucus system for choosing candidates, as opposed to using the signature-gathering method of gaining a spot on the ballot.

Washington County GOP party chair Jimi Kestin at the Washington County GOP Lincoln Day Breakfast, St. George, Utah, Feb. 17, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“This may be the most important year the caucus system has ever seen,” he said.

Kestin said a notable example of the caucus system at work occurred recently when Dixie State University law professor Travis Seegmiller was recently chosen from eight “outstanding candidates” to take the place of former state Rep. Jon Stanard, who abruptly resigned during the legislative session. Without mentioning Stanard by name, Kestin simply called Stanard’s departure “an unfortunate event,” before recognizing Seegmiller, who was in attendance at the breakfast with his wife.

“It was an amazing display of the caucus system,” Kestin said, referring to the process to select a replacement representative for District 62.

Read more: Washington County GOP chooses replacement for ex-House member Stanard

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate, on Thursday formally filed his intent to gather 28,000 signatures needed to appear on the Utah’s statewide Republican primary ballot in June. At least four other Republican candidates have already done the same.

In addition, there were two U.S. Senate candidates in attendance at Saturday’s breakfast who said they plan to seek the GOP nomination for Hatch’s seat via the caucus system. They are St. George attorney Larry Meyers and professional engineer Timothy Jimenez. Neither spoke to the audience during the program, but both greeted attendees and handed out campaign literature in the hallway.

Read more: St. George attorney announces run for GOP US Senate nomination

Utah Auditor John Dougall at the Washington County GOP Lincoln Day Breakfast, St. George, Utah, Feb. 17, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Utah State Auditor John Dougall, who has also publicly indicated he is thinking of running for Hatch’s Senate seat, mentioned that race during his brief speech to Saturday’s audience.

“As Sen. Hatch sprints to the finish line after 42 years, I think it is important to pause and think about what we want from our next senator,” Dougall said, adding that he believes voters should choose someone “who understands Utah and its issues.”

“Before we decide where someone sits, Utah’s got to decide where someone stands,” Dougall said.

While Dougall has not formally declared himself to be a candidate for U.S. Senate, he recently posted his thoughts about the race on social media.

We need to talk about what we want our senator to be before we decide who we want our next senator to be,” he said in a Facebook post dated Feb. 14, in which he detailed several potential concerns about Romney’s candidacy.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike sings national anthem, flanked by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (left), Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, and other elected officials, as high school students serve on the color guard. Washington County GOP Lincoln Day Breakfast, St. George, Utah, Feb. 17, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“Utah voters need to have a conversation, not a coronation,” Dougall added. “We need to ask the tough questions or Utahns won’t get the answers and commitments we need on these important issues before electing a new senator. It’s time for that conversation to begin.”

Other speakers at the GOP breakfast included state Sen. Don Ipson, state Rep. Brad Last, Washington County Commissioner Zach Renstrom, Attorney General Sean Reyes, Utah Treasurer David Damschen and state GOP party treasurer Abe Young.

In addition, St. George Mayor Jon Pike led the audience in singing the National Anthem at the beginning of the event, prompting Reyes to joke, “ I didn’t realize Mayor Pike had those kind of pipes.”

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • PogoStik February 18, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    What can be said about outgoing Senator Hatch? Extreme party loyalty over morality and character judgement? Regardless of political affiliation how can one call Trump “one of the best Presidents”. Yes, Trump is of my party, but on a daily basis the President shows by his actions and comments (or lack of comments when we expect them from a President) the type of immoral and uncaring person that he is. We must put morality and decency above political affiliation or we appear to have the low moral standards on the one we are falsely loyal to.

    • DB February 18, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      Sounds like more of an anti Trump rant than what the article was really about. As for Hatch? He’ll tell you anything you want to hear. Have a wonderful retirement, Mr Hatch. Term limits, PLEASE!

  • Striker4 February 18, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    Bye

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