SALT LAKE CITY — A day after a potential challenger accepted a Trump administration nomination, Sen. Orrin Hatch said he intends to run for an eighth term.
Hatch, the longest-serving GOP senator, told CNN on Thursday he is planning to run for re-election next year, abandoning his plans to retire from the Senate after four decades of service.
The Utah Republican, who promised in the 2012 election that his current term would be his last, said he has changed his mind at this time, partially because he's been getting encouragement from President Donald Trump and top Republicans to run again.
"I'm planning on (running) right now," Hatch told CNN. "That's what my current plans are."
Hatch, who will turn 83 later this month and has served in the Senate since 1977, could still change his mind again and decide to retire.
Hatch's decision comes as Trump tabbed former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. as his nominee for ambassador to Russia. Some had speculated that Huntsman would have mounted a primary challenge to Hatch in 2018.
Huntsman told the Deseret News earlier this year that he has one more run at elected office in him, but he would not say what office he would seek.
Hatch said he spent an hour Wednesday with his "longtime friend" Huntsman and said he believed that the ex-governor was not going to challenge him.
"I don't think he would have ever run against me," Hatch said. "He didn't really want to run for Senate."
Asked if he was preparing for a tough 2018 re-election battle, Hatch said: "Anyone who wants to take me on knows it's going to be a real ordeal."
Hatch's comments to CNN on Thursday are the clearest signal yet from the most senior Republican senator, who is third in the line of succession to the president as the Senate's president pro tempore.
The decision comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump have both tried to persuade the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to run again.
"His pitch is he needs me," Hatch said of Trump. "Things are going to be just fine."