U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, 83, has difficulty seeing these days, apparently losing clear vision with a large percentage of his eyesight, his office confirmed to UtahPolicy Tuesday.
However, Hatch is doing very well medically and mentally, his office says; with the Senate staff doctor recently reporting so.
And his vision challenges are not hindering his daily work for his constituents and country, Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock tells the online political newsletter.
UtahPolicy asked explicitly about the senator’s vision issues after several people reported incidents in which Hatch appeared to have problems seeing.
Here is the complete statement by Hatch’s D.C. office:
“Senator Hatch’s physician has released a report showing that the Senator is in excellent physical and mental health.
“The Senator has made no secret, however, of recent deterioration in his vision following a procedure approximately 18 months ago that negatively impacted roughly 60 percent of his vision.
“Fortunately, this procedure has in no way affected Senator Hatch’s work and his ability to serve his constituents.
“In the meantime, he appreciates everyone’s patience with his occasional squinting.”
UtahPolicy asked his office for a response to two specific recent incidents:
Hatch gave a speech at a Deer Valley hotel earlier this year. The podium lighting was not very good, apparently. And after his staff put down a paper printout of comments, Hatch said he couldn’t see the type, and if it were OK, he would speak extemporarily and then answer questions. Which he did.
After the speech, this person got a glimpse of the speech and noticed it had large type, easily readable to a person with normal eyesight.
On another occasion, Hatch was seated at a large conference table, maybe eight or 10 feet across. It appeared the senator couldn’t recognize others at the table, this person reported.
Hatch himself has said for months that he intended to run for re-election in 2018 – it would be his 8th, six-year term – unless his or his wife’s health would preclude that.
Hatch has been coy, putting off his re-election announcement according to various timelines. He now says he’ll announce in late December or early next year whether he will run again or not.
UtahPolicy has reported several times that sources say Hatch will not run again and that former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is seriously considering running for Hatch’s seat next year.
Hatch’s is clearly a GOP seat; no Democrat has been elected in Utah to the U.S. Senate since 1970.
Hatch has continued campaign fundraising; he now has more than $4 million in that account. Hatch supporters have also started a Hatch Foundation and continue to fundraise for that as well.
The idea of a foundation, to be tied to a Utah university, would be a place to house Hatch’s Senate papers and provide teaching and training for public policy and political science students.
Hatch would have a leading position at the foundation.