Utah to chart post-Romney path with GOP Senate primary

Mitt Romney, R-UT, will carry his centrist reputation with him when he leaves the Senate in the next few months. Utah voters will decide in a primary vote later this month whether they still like his Republican politics, or if they want to go down a Trumpier road.

Three candidates are leading the race for the Senate Republican Primary: Rep. John Curtis, a climate hawk, Riverton mayor Trent Staggs a Trump-endorsed Republican, and Brad Wilson a former House Speaker from the Beehive state.

On June 25, the GOP will select their nominee, who is expected to win in November with a resounding victory.

Romney, who has lost the favor of conservatives for voting to convict Donald Trump during his two impeachment proceedings, is staying neutral out of fear that he will be a “kiss to death” for any campaign, he said to the Washington Examiner. The retiring senator stated that he would “absolutely endorse” whichever Republican won the primary.


Or maybe not. Romney wasn’t sure if he would support the Trump-backed Staggs.

He said, “I will cross the bridge when we get there.”

Staggs told the Washington Examiner, on his behalf, that Romney’s backing isn’t welcomed unless he retracts his harsh criticisms from years ago.

“You have someone who says he’d rather vote for Biden in the general elections against Trump than support him. Staggs told an interview that he would not welcome such a move. We need Republicans who will go back to Utah and represent everyday Americans. Mitt Romney hasn’t shown that.

Romney, who chose not to run for re-election in order to give way to a “new leadership generation,” turned 77 years old this year.

According to a legislative analysis by the Conservative Political Action Conference, he is most ideologically aligned with Wilson among the three candidates. Romney’s conservative lifetime score is 62% compared to Wilson and Curtis, who both scored 71%. Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, who hasn’t endorsed in this race is 99%. Staggs didn’t have one, because CPAC doesn’t evaluate local politicians.

Staggs has touted his “willingness” to stand up against the establishment, positioning himself as the MAGA conservative candidate in the race. He’s also been endorsed like by Sens. Rand Paul (R – KY) and Tommy Tuberville, (R – AL), as well as the Utah GOP.

He said that if Utahns wanted to continue the Mitt Romney legacy, they could vote for his opponent John Curtis. “If they are looking for someone who will stand up with President Trump and advance the America First agenda to get us back on top of energy, then they should elect me.”

In recent months, Curtis has been rated as the frontrunner in both public and internal polls. The margins of victory have also varied.

Curtis founded the House Conservative Climate Caucus. He has also been a leader within the GOP in clean energy. This is a reputation that he tried to shed in the primary. His campaign declined to grant an interview for this article.

Curtis said to the Washington Examiner that his constituents saw him as more than just a climate expert. It’s just a tool. “It’s a strength for me. But I want to be a good candidate on all of the issues that matter to them.”

Wilson has also been criticized for claiming to be the most conservative candidate, when in fact his record shows a centrist bent. He dismissed Staggs’s Trump endorsement and said that the election was never about gaining the support of those outside the state of Utah.

“This isn’t about Mitt.” Wilson stated that this isn’t a matter of any major personalities or political leaders from our country or state. Wilson said, “This is about everyday Utahns, who have, quite honestly, felt at times — and I am not saying this necessarily about Sen. Romney, but at times, they feel like their congressional delegation is not responsive to what is needed here in Utah.”

In a poll conducted by ClearPath’s political arm last month, Curtis was ranked 35%, Wilson 11.5%, and Staggs 8%. The 500 respondents were divided between Curtis, Wilson, and Staggs.

The Staggs campaign of the Salt Lake County Republican Party conducted a survey with 4,000 respondents. Curtis was ranked 36.5%, Staggs at 22%, and Wilson at 7%.

Wilson had the highest cash balance as of the latest data, which was April 7. Wilson had over $2 million in his bank account, compared with Curtis $1.3 million and Staggs $453,000.

Washington Examiner has previously revealed that associates and allies, including prominent donors, former staffers and Romney’s supporters, support the more centrist candidates Wilson, and Curtis.