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For week ended October 17, 1999 Posted 31 Oct 1999

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Versatile Hatch: He writes both laws and songs

Summarized by Eric Bunker

Versatile Hatch: He writes both laws and songs
Des Moines IA Register 17Oct99 N2
By Jane Norman: Register Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A popular guest on the Sunday-morning talk shows, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, the articulate chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is considered by some the epitome of the accomplished Washington politician. Regarded among senators as gracious, helpful, and a conservative Republican that is willing to forge alliances and even friendships with liberals such as Ted Kennedy when the causes are legitimate. On the fashion side, this Utah Republican is so polished that the Washingtonian magazine recently dubbed him one of the Capitol's best-dressed Republicans.

However, many in Washington and Utah are puzzled why he would undertake an arduous race for president that seems like a lost cause from the outset. Some believe that if even Bush was not in the race he wouldn't do much better because his reputation as a deal-maker in the Senate raises suspicions among conservatives. Hatch, 65, concedes that in this last minute leap, he's hoping Bush will stumble, clearing the way for him as the next choice. But there's far more to it than that, he says.

"If I didn't think I could do a better job than the rest of them put together, I wouldn't be in it," he said. "I have more experience than anybody in the race, including the two Democrats. I have a better record of accomplishment than any of them.

"There's also no question I know more about picking federal judges than all of them put together, and that to me is the No. 1 issue in the presidential election," he said.

Money is a problem for Hatch though, reportedly raising only $1.3 million since July, last among all the candidates. Bush has raised $56 million so far, including $19 million since July.

Born in Pittsburgh during the Depression, he comes from a working class family of nine children of very humble circumstances. The family was active in the Church.

As a child to earn money, Hatch tended chickens and sold eggs around the neighborhood. Tragedy struck at age 10 with the death of his only brother, Jesse, in World War II. The family also lost two children in childbirth.

With the help of a scholarship, he went to Brigham Young University in 1952, where he met his future wife, Elaine Hansen. Orrin worked as a janitor to pay the bills. After graduation, Orrin and Elaine returned to Pittsburgh, where Hatch's father helped him fix an old chicken coop for the young couple to live in while Hatch attended law school at the University of Pittsburgh. The couple today have six children and 19 grandchildren.

Sen. Hatch practiced law in Pittsburgh and Utah before suddenly entering the race for Senate in 1976, because he thought the other candidates were too moderate. Hatch likes to describe himself as a "gutsy conservative."

As a hobby, Sen. Hatch has penned the lyrics to hundreds of songs religious songs, love songs, patriotic themes. Many have made it onto albums by inspirational artists, such a Gladys Knight.

"I write on planes, or when I have a few moments to think or reflect," he said. "Especially in church I sometimes come up with really good ideas." He also has a novel in the works, and a second book on how to make decisions.

To see where Sen. Hatch stands on the issues, his website can be accessed at:

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information