Under the pensive, painted gaze of his late father, Brent Orrin Hatch considered his last-minute decision to run for the U.S. Senate seat which carried their family name for more than four decades.

Similar to the striking portrait hanging behind him of a suited Orrin G. Hatch contemplating a pioneer ancestor’s headstone, Brent Hatch’s motivations for launching a congressional campaign may have been more poetic than practical. He had just rounded up his most successful year ever at his private law firm in Salt Lake City and had a recent history of avoiding the political limelight.

But upon reviewing the list of candidates vying for Sen. Mitt Romney’s soon-to-be-open position, Hatch said the calls of legacy and a nation in crisis led to his decision to run.

“You’ve got to have somebody who can work with the other side and do the type of work like my father did,” Hatch told the Deseret News, seated in his downtown office. “And what I have seen is for the last five years since he stepped down in 2019, we’ve gotten more divisive, the deficit’s shot through the roof and our border is out of control.”

By filing his declaration of candidacy on Jan. 2, Hatch initiated a long-shot bid as a political unknown in the state — albeit with some built-in name recognition — and joined a host of fellow 2024 hopefuls. The race to replace Romney, who announced his retirement in September, will pit 3rd District Rep. John Curtis against former state House Speaker Brad Wilson, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs and eight others, including Hatch, in a competition over the Republican nomination.

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Who is Brent Hatch?

As the oldest son of Utah’s longest-serving senator, Hatch said he took great pains to pave a professional path independent of his dad’s prestige, securing a clerkship under Judge Robert H. Bork after graduating from Columbia Law School and accepting positions in the Department of Justice under Ronald Reagan, and in the White House under George H. W. Bush, before establishing his law firm in Utah.

After more than 30 years in private practice, Hatch said he is ready to follow in his father’s footsteps of public service. But said he would be lying if he didn’t say he was a little concerned by the prospect of leaving the comfort of a courtroom to campaign against candidates with experienced teams and institutional backing.

“When we pulled up to the (Utah) Capitol to go in and file the papers, I was like, ‘This is insane, why do I want to just disrupt my life like this,’ and I almost turned around and came home,” Hatch said. “There are a lot of people in this race, some of them have been running for almost a year. Some of these guys are career politicians.”

Brent Hatch, who’s running for U.S. Senate, speaks during an interview with the Deseret News at the office of Hatch Law Group in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

Hatch sees this as one of the characteristics that will help him stand out among the crowd.

“I never wanted to be a career politician,” he said. “And I have gotten to the point in life where I don’t think anybody could accuse me of ever wanting to do that.”

As a litigator handling claims as big as a $194 billion case in his representation of Pfizer and as intimate as defending the copyright of a World War II veteran, Hatch said his experiences with negotiations and business ownership give him insight into the country’s biggest problems.

What are Brent Hatch’s most important issues?

First among them, according to Hatch, is the state of the nation’s balance sheet. The country’s debt has doubled from $17 trillion to $34 trillion in the past decade, far exceeding annual gross domestic product and resulting in interest payments that now consume upward of 16% of the yearly budget, Hatch pointed out.

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“At some point, this is just outrageous and there’s got to be some common sense brought to the table here,” Hatch said. “It’s going to take some backbone because, let’s face it, Republicans have been spending just as much as the Democrats.”

Hatch said he would take cues from his father’s tenure in more ways than one.

Over seven terms, former Sen. Orrin Hatch sponsored a balanced budget amendment 17 times to create a constitutional requirement that Congress not spend more in a year than it takes in.

But the senator’s most lasting legacy, his son said, was his ability to form deep friendships with ideological opposites, most famously Sen. Ted Kennedy, and achieve conservative wins even while managing difficult personalities, like that of former President Donald Trump.

“I watched my father for a number of years and he kept his conservative foundation but he figured out how to work with people to get things done,” Hatch said. “I had a front row seat to that.”

Aside from labeling his opponents as out-of-touch with the private sector, Hatch criticized Curtis specifically for changing his mind on a Senate run and for his emphasis on climate and energy policy, which Hatch said distract from the “real issues” of debt and border security.

What it comes down to, Hatch said, isn’t his family tree, but his commitment to advocate for who he hopes will become his newest client: Utah voters.

“I’m the one guy in the race who actually has spent his career fighting for little guys and businesses to protect their rights and I am relentless in doing so,” Hatch said. “And I will do that for the people of the state of Utah.”