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The City Journals

Remembering Orrin Hatch – and our first meeting in Provo

May 12, 2022 10:52AM ● By Tom Haraldsen
In 2018, when Utah Senator Orrin Hatch announced his retirement, I penned a remembrance of
him while I was editor at the now-defunct Davis Clipper. It was because of journalism and my
very first job that I met Mr. Hatch, and how we crossed paths several times over the 42 years he
served in the U.S. Senate. I always felt a connection to him. So obviously since I learned on
Sunday morning of his passing, I’ve been saddened and melancholy.

The great memories, however, will endure.

Those who know me have heard the story before. I met Orrin Hatch in 1976, when I was
interviewing candidates campaigning for the Republican nomination to run against three-time
Democratic incumbent Frank Moss. It was in July, the state convention had been held and Hatch
had emerged slightly behind favorite Jack Carlson but with enough delegates to earn a spot in the September primary. Both Carlson and Hatch were making the newspaper interview circuit,
including to the Daily Herald in Provo where I was a reporter.

Hatch came into the newspaper along with his campaign manager, a guy named Mac Haddow.
Hatch’s interview with me was much different than Jack Carlson’s. He looked me in the eyes
when he spoke, his answers seemed more sincere and genuine.

Two weeks later, Haddow called me and said, “What do you think of my boy?” I told him I was
impressed. He told me Hatch was impressed by me, then asked if I had a desire to help with
Hatch’s campaign. It would be volunteer work – no pay and after hours – and I’d have to drive
back and forth from Provo to Salt Lake City several times a week to their headquarters. Their
office was in a rented house on 400 South across the street from Chuck-A-Rama (the houses
were torn down years ago and a hotel now sits on the site). Being a political junkie in those days
(as I still am), I jumped at the chance.

So for no pay, on my own time, and simply for the experience, I worked with Orrin for the next
eight weeks prior to the primary election. I accompanied him on several public appearances,
helping with a few press releases from his campaign, giving him a little media coaching, etc. In
turn, I did enjoy some free meals at Chuck-A-Rama and some great experiences working on a
national campaign.

The primary was on Tuesday, Sept. 14, and my wife – nine months pregnant – accompanied me
to Salt Lake City for what would either be a victory party or a “thanks for trying” celebration.
On the way to Salt Lake, my wife began feeling labor pains as we headed to the party (also held
at Chuck’s). Orrin put his arm around her shoulder and jokingly said, “Hey, if you have the baby
here tonight, we’ll get national publicity.” He was joking, I promise. Our son Jeff was born the
next day at Utah Valley Hospital.

Hatch won the primary but I was not in a position to volunteer “full time” for his race in the
general election, so our campaign days together were over. But a few weeks later, Ronald
Reagan came to Utah to help support Republican candidates. He spoke at a fundraising luncheon, and as I sat there as a guest of Hatch’s campaign, Orrin surprised me when he took me up to the head table to meet Mr. Reagan. I’ll never forget Reagan’s handshake or his sincere greeting.

It was pretty heady stuff for a 23-year-old, first-year journalist to experience. Of course, Hatch was elected to the Senate that November and four years later, Ronald Reagan was elected President.

The senator and I saw each other a few times over the years, the last when author Lee Roderick,
who’s written three books about Hatch, met me at one of the senator’s book-signing events.
Hatch always seemed to remember our time together as his political career was beginning.

I followed his career over those six terms, not always agreeing with the things he’s said or the
way he’s voted, as our political directions didn’t often align. But I respected him for his service
to the country, and I am grateful for the experiences I had working with him.

Thank you, Senator
Hatch. Rest in peace.