Nicole Boliaux, Deseret News
U.S. Senator Orrin G. Hatch takes pictures with constituents after a Memorial Day service at Sunset Gardens Cemetery in Sandy on Monday, May 29, 2017.

Are there qualified candidates who can fill Sen. Orrin Hatch’s shoes in the Senate if he doesn’t run for an eighth term? Yes, many. But it would take decades before they could deliver what Hatch and his staff do for Utah every day. Seniority may not be everything, but age does not define Orrin Hatch. Substance does.

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee (and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force, as well as serving and having served on many other major committees), Hatch is at the pinnacle of political power. As president pro tempore of the Senate, Hatch is third in the line to the presidency. Without Hatch, many might dismiss Utah as a small Western state. With Hatch, Utah is the heart of the West — a force no one can ignore.

Hatch has proved again and again his competence. No other sitting senator has passed more legislation. The nonpartisan Center for Effective Lawmaking recently named Hatch the most effective member of the U.S. Senate. The center rates the ability of legislators to advance their agenda “through the legislative process and into law.”

That’s right. Utah has the most effective senator. He has fought to improve infrastructure at Hill Air Force Base, support teachers and improve intellectual property protection and other major legislation helping Utah businesses, institutions and families.

Hatch knows what keeps us safe at home and strong abroad. He not only helped Reagan and Bush lead the charge against communism — successfully dismantling Soviet tyranny and terror — but he understands today’s threats posed by Russia, the rise of China and the menace of terrorism. His conservatism is rooted in a sense of America’s abundance and strength — optimism reflected in our state’s welcoming refugees.

In a time of decreasing civility, he provides a refreshing voice of conviction, yet without the anger and divisiveness that typifies so many of today’s politicians. The continuing loss of civility in Washington is taking its toll, but Hatch knows how to stand firm without casting others as evil.

"When I first came to Washington, the culture of Congress was vastly different than it is today,” Hatch wrote for Time magazine. “It was a level of respect and congeniality among colleagues that was hard to find anywhere else. Some of my best friends were Democrats. One moment we would yell at each other on the Senate floor, the next we would be laughing together over a family dinner."

The Senate desperately needs Hatch’s wisdom and example — because Hatch’s values are Utah values. At the Constitutional Convention, another octogenarian, Benjamin Franklin, served this vital role as well. “For having lived long,” Franklin said, “I have experienced many Instances of being obliged, by better Information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important Subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.” Franklin’s wisdom and experience tempered the hotheadedness of some of the more youthful Founding Fathers.

I think of what the late President Gordon B. Hinckley of the LDS Church said when Mike Wallace asked him about the “old men” who run The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The then-85-year-old President Hinckley didn’t hesitate when he cheerfully answered, “Isn’t it wonderful to have a man of maturity ..., a man of judgment?”

And for Utah and the nation, it is wonderful. I would be very happy to have Hatch run again. Many of Utah’s political leaders, as well as his colleagues in the Senate, are encouraging him to do so. There has never been a time when the nation had a greater need for a Utahn like Hatch in Washington.

Khosrow B. Semnani is an Iranian-American industrialist, community leader and philanthropist who lives in Salt Lake City.