Former Democratic Rep. Bill Orton enjoys being a dad, doesn't miss his old job and hasn't ruled out another run at political office, perhaps sooner than later.
And, oh, yes, he's still miffed about the way Republican Chris Cannon beat him in the 3rd District two years ago.Orton dropped out of sight following the hard-fought 1996 elec-tion. Some observers said he was so bitter about the loss that he disappeared to lick his wounds. Orton, 49, says he spent six months rehabilitating herniated discs in his back. He was injured when a U.S. Capitol groundskeeper inexplicably attacked him from behind in March 1995.
The back still troubles him; so much, in fact, that he said he doubts he would have been able to complete a fourth term had he won it. His bad back - he's had to have spinal surgery and take steroids - can't handle frequent travel or long meetings.
Orton, a tax attorney, started working part time for the law firm Jones Waldo Holbrook & Mc-Donough last July. He splits time between its Salt Lake and Washington, D.C., offices. Orton likes the Beltway scene because it allows him to dabble in federal government matters. He and his wife, Jacquelyn, and sons Will, 3, and 14-month-old Wes currently live in the nation's capital where Orton is preparing to take a case to the U.S. Supreme Court next month, a first in his law career.
Democrats pleaded with him to consider challenging Cannon in the 3rd District this fall. Internal opinion polls, Orton said, showed him way ahead. He said he declined because he planned to retire from the House and return to Utah to raise his family after 1998 anyway.
A mild push to draft Orton as a write-in candidate hasn't changed his mind.
"If I had wanted to run for office, I would have filed and run," he said. The write-in effort, Orton said, reflects people's frustration with the lack of choices and real democracy.
"I hate to see a one-party system, but the people of Utah chose that," he said.
Orton doesn't fault potential Democratic candidates for not wanting to take on the multimillionaire Cannon. Not only would the person have to battle the congressman's big money, Orton says, but also his dirty campaign tactics. "Who in their right mind would want to go up against that?"
Though he says he hasn't dwelled on losing to the Mapleton Republican, he has plenty to say about how Cannon "bought" or "dishonestly won" the 1996 election.
"The only thing I didn't like was that my opponent didn't challenge me on the issues and my stands on the issues," Orton said.
"I don't think that people ought to sell their political power to millionaires who are willing to open their pocketbooks and spend whatever it takes to win."
Orton said he will not run for federal office for at least eight or 10 years. He finds the U.S. Senate intriguing. "I may run for that."
In the meantime, though, Orton might seek office closer to home.
"We haven't precluded getting into state politics in the near future," he said. "There's a lot of things you can do in state politics from governor on down."
The Ortons maintain a house that Orton's great-great-grandfather built in Ogden. They intend to build a new home and live year round in Park City by the time Will starts school in two years.
"We like the area," Orton said. "We really enjoyed Sundance (a former residence), but it wasn't a very conducive place to raise small kids."
Orton's life centers around his wife and two boys these days.
Orton, who married for the first time at age 45, gushes about how "smart, smart, smart" his sons are. Will can already read and write a few words. Wes accompanies his papa to the office a couple of times a week just like his brother did when Orton was in Congress. Jacquelyn Orton is a full-time homemaker and recently started a small sewing business on the side. She makes clothes for her boys, but she prefers to make frilly dresses for girls.
The Ortons haven't ruled out having more children on their own or the possibility of adopting.
"It's a real kick being a dad. That more than fills my life. I don't miss the hassles of being in political office," he said.
But that doesn't mean he's through with politics.