Sen. Orrin Hatch says he does plan on running for an eighth term in the U.S. Senate in 2018, following months of speculation.
Hatch made his comments to CNN on Thursday, though his office later said his decision is not yet final.
Gov. Gary Herbert, a longtime friend of Hatch’s, praised the 82-year-old senator, saying he has served Utah well for more than 40 years.
“I don’t know what the outcome is going to be," said Herbert. "I think we’re all caught a little by surprise by the announcement today. But I appreciate that Orrin Hatch is doing good things. My concern is really these next two years. We need his muscle; we need his seniority; we need his smart acumen politically now.”
The news comes a day after President Trump tapped former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to be the ambassador to Russia. Huntsman was considered a likely challenger to Hatch.