U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch has picked up a valued endorsement in his contested re-election next year: Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen said Friday that Huntsman, a Republican like Hatch, has agreed to co-chair Hatch's re-election campaign with U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.

Utah House Majority Whip Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, has already announced he will challenge Hatch for the GOP nomination next year.

Hatch seeks his sixth, six-year term in 2006, which would take him through 2012. Huntsman, who is rumored to have his eyes on a U.S. Senate seat some day, has already said he'll seek a second term in 2008, which would take him through 2012.

Huntsman has term-limited himself, saying he will serve only two, four-year terms as governor. Huntsman is pushing for a law limiting governors to two terms in office. If re-elected next year, Hatch will have served 36 years in the U.S. Senate at the end of his next term.

Hansen quotes Huntsman as saying the governor "enthusiastically endorsed (Hatch's) re-election."

Urquhart has criticized Hatch, saying he has been in Washington too long and has lost touch with Utahns and their issues.