Hatch’s office announced his retirement in a video statement released Tuesday, Jan. 2. “Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching,” Hatch said.
Longest serving Senator
Hatch served more than 40 years in the Senate, representing his heavily Republican and majority Mormon state. For years his seat was considered a lock, but Hatch faced a significant threat in his most recent primary campaign in 2012 after fellow conservative Republican senator Robert Bennett was ousted by a Tea Party insurgency within the ranks of the Utah GOP. State primary rules give an opening for a well-organized splinter group to put forward their own candidate, which happened in Bennett’s case. Forewarned, Hatch loyalists sidestepped that pitfall by mustering a well-organized turnout in the state caucus. But now, after reportedly considering the matter over the holidays with his family, the 83-year-old Senator has lost the stomach for the fight.
Hatch’s retirement announcement opens the door for the Senate candidacy of fellow Mormon Mitt Romney, ex-governor of Massachusetts and former presidential candidate. Romney, who is now a Utah resident, has said in the past he would run for the seat if Hatch retired.
Hatch is revered within the supplement industry as the co-sponsor, along with former Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, of the industry’s overarching legislation, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. That spirit of bipartisanship continues to be a facet of the industry’s support on Capitol Hill, even as bipartisan cooperation has eroded to almost nothing in many other areas of legislative endeavor.
Industry sources said it would be hard to overestimate the influence Hatch has had, not only within the dietary supplement industry, but also in the country in general.
Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance, was a member of Sen. Hatch’s staff around the time that DSHEA was written. Israelsen said that Hatch was a highly regarded and effective legislator who put the country’s interests first.
“We’ve had the opportunity and privilege to work very closely with Sen. Hatch for more than 40 years. His tenure in the Senate has been one of the most productive in history; the significant legislation he has authored or co-authored is remarkable and has touched the lives of every American.
“In addition to his forceful drive to enact the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) in 1994, his significant contributions to drug and device law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and funding for children’s health and AIDS care and other health-related research stand out among many important achievements.
“Over the course of his career, he has always represented the spirit of bipartisan politics, honoring the traditions of the Senate to be courteous, thoughtful and reflective—the ability to look for the right answer and the ability to deliver that,” Israelsen said.
“There is no one who will just step into Sen. Hatch’s shoes,” said Steve Mister, president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition. “He has been a giant within this industry for years. He has accomplished a lot in Congress, mostly recently with the tax reform package he helped shuttle through.”
“Looking outside our industry, this is a sad day for the country,” said Dan Fabricant, PhD, president of the Natural Products Association. “You are dealing with a legislator who passed more legislation not just for this industry but America. He worked across the aisle but stuck to his principles while doing that.”
Finding a broader base of support
The dietary supplement industry was unusually fortunate in having two such well regarded and accomplished Senators as advocates as it had in Hatch and Harkin. As was the case when Harkin retired in 2014, industry sources said the goal now is to further cultivate broad-based support in Washington, not to find a new Moses, so to speak. Along with that effort, Hatch’s news serves to remind industry stakeholders that nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to governmental relations. The target is always moving.
“We acknowledge the great contributions that Sen. Hatch has made. But as we learned when Sen. Harkin retired, you really need to cultivate a group of Senators to advocate for you. You don’t put your stock into just one person. There’s Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sen. John Boozman (R-LA). And on the other side of the aisle of course there’s Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) has become a good friend of the industry,” Mister said.
“If you are not at the table, you are on the menu. That’s something we learned from Sen. Hatch and that message hasn’t changed,” Fabricant said. “The game plan is to play the game like other industries do. Meet with your representatives and get to know them. Come to industry events like our fly in day, which is coming up in April.”