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On Orrin Hatch's 76th birthday: his career in photos

Utah senator, who turns 76 today, has served for 33 years

Published: Monday, March 22 2010 12:29 a.m. MDT

Newly re-elected Sen. Orrin Hatch stands with his mother, wife and son at his side in 1982.

Gerald Silver, Deseret News Archives

Orrin Hatch's nine point victory over three-term Democratic Sen. Frank Moss in 1976 was described at the time as "the Cinderella campaign of the season."

No one would have guessed at the time that Hatch, who made Moss' 18 years in the senate a major campaign issue, would go on to become Utah's longest serving senator, having been in office for 33 years and counting.

Over the years, Hatch, who turns 76 Monday and is not camera shy, has been photographed many times by Deseret News photographers. Photo researcher Ron Fox has collected several photos from the early years of Hatch's political career.

Although born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pa., Hatch's campaign made the most of his Utah roots — his great-grandfather, Jeremiah Hatch, founded Vernal.

After he received his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, he practiced law in Pennsylvania and Utah for 14 years. Then, Hatch told Deseret News staff writer JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells, his friends told him to stop complaining about Moss's performance and "to get in and do something about it."

Wells wrote in a candidate profile in the Oct. 30, 1988, Deseret News: "The political newcomer with no name identification, no strongly organized support and little money to conduct a campaign upset the popular Moss on election day in November 1976, taking 54 percent of the ballots cast. It was the largest percentage accorded a Republican nominee for the Senate by Utah voters since 1926."

As a political newcomer, Hatch made an immediate impact on the national scene.

Then-Deseret News political editor LaVarr Webb captured part of Hatch's appeal in an April 29, 1980, column:

"Utah's junior senator is moving so fast, in so many directions, with so much exuberance and intensity, that it's difficult to put him in a neat package."

"In less than four years, this one-man conservative dynamo who is out to save the world from liberalism has become more of a 'national senator' (at least among conservatives) than any other Utah congressman in recent history. ...

"Prop Hatch up in front of a microphone, they say, press a button and he'll spout conservative gospel on any subject for any length of time."

Hatch attributes his early success to circumstance.

"In my first year in the Senate, which at the time had 62 Democrats and only 38 Republicans, I led a successful charge against the misnamed Labor Law Reform Act. I was 98th in seniority and all that was left willing to take on the 'unwinnable' battle," he said in an interview Friday.

One AP photo taken in 1981, while Hatch was still a freshman, foreshadows the friendship he would develop with Sen. Edward Kennedy. The photo was taken after Hatch had succeeded Kennedy to the chairmanship of the Senate Labor and Human Resources committee.

Another photo shows Hatch, his mother, his wife, Elaine, and son celebrating his 1982 re-election, when he defeated Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson by 17 points. No subsequent challenger has come that close.

In a Nov. 6, 1988, candidate profile by Jacobsen-Wells, Hatch acknowledged his penchant for creating controversy:

"'My wife says I have a special knack for making enemies,' said Hatch, who led the fight to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, praised Supreme Court Justice-nominee Robert Bork, defended Oliver North, fought the nuclear freeze, kept the MX missile and Strategic Defense Initiative alive."

In 1988, Hatch received the endorsement of Muhammad Ali, and photos show the now-veteran senator in Salt Lake City celebrating his re-election with the former heavyweight boxing champion, his wife and a grandchild.

Hatch unabashedly attributes his success to picking battles Utahns wanted him to fight, and winning them.

"Over the years, battle after battle, I found much support from Utahns as I stood up for them," Hatch said.

e-mail: mhaddock@desnews.com

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