Conservative Republicans have another fighter in the ring for the Utah Senate election for Mitt Romney’s seat.
Mayor Trent Skaggs has announced that he is jumping into the fray against Romney, a multi-millionaire financier and former presidential candidate.
— MarciJoy (@msmarcijoy) May 23, 2023
“Utah needs another proven fighter and conservative in the Senate,” Skaggs wrote. “We need someone unafraid to stand against the Washington establishment. That’s who I am, but I need your help to get there.”
Utah needs another proven fighter and conservative in the Senate. We need someone unafraid to stand against the Washington establishment. That's who I am, but I need your help to get there https://t.co/yg5tnTG4mV pic.twitter.com/qof9JQYi7C
— Mayor Trent Staggs (@MayorStaggs) May 23, 2023
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson in April announced the formation of an exploratory committee, also positioning himself as a “conservative fighter” who embodies the state’s values, in contrast to what he argued was Romney’s status as a “professional career politician.” The move allows Wilson to raise funds and campaign statewide, although he stops short of making his candidacy official.
Romney, who has not yet declared his reelection plans, recently filed initial paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. However, he has refrained from commenting on Wilson’s announcement or his own candidacy statement.
Wilson’s exploratory committee brings into focus the Republican Party’s perspective on members who are willing to criticize former President Donald Trump, following the punishment faced by figures like former Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney in GOP primaries or their decision not to seek reelection.
Romney, aged 76, has historically been highly regarded in Utah, particularly due to his prominence within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his instrumental role in salvaging the 2002 Winter Olympics amid a bribery scandal. However, his outspoken opposition to Trump and the Republican Party’s rightward shift have led to growing doubts about his prospects for reelection.
“I hope the jury of the American people reach the same conclusion about Donald Trump,” Romney told CNN. “He just is not suited to be president of the United States and to be the person who we hold up to our children and the world as the leader of the free world.”
“At some point when the people who work with you, your cabinet secretaries, and juries conclude that you’ve done something severely wrong, it’s time for us to recognize that the great majority of those who’ve worked with him are right and he’s wrong,” he added.
The June 2024 primary campaign will coincide with the GOP’s presidential primary season, and if Romney decides to run, his criticisms of the former president are likely to become a focal point. While Romney’s willingness to challenge his own party has irked GOP activists in Utah, it had little impact on his last Senate primary in 2018, where he secured a resounding victory with voters despite losing in the state party convention.
Carson Jorgensen, Chair of the Utah Republican Party, stated that he does not anticipate Romney seeking reelection, citing the senator’s recent absence from state GOP events. Jorgensen believes that the party’s changing dynamics will influence the presidential and Senate races and how they become intertwined. He also expects high voter turnout due to negative sentiments towards President Joe Biden among Utahns, which could prompt numerous challengers to enter the race given the rarity of Senate seats becoming available.
Jorgensen mentioned other potential candidates rumored to run, including Trent Staggs, the mayor of Riverton, and John Curtis, the 3rd District congressman, both of whom are regulars at Republican events.
Although Wilson is the first to establish an exploratory committee, former U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz expressed his consideration of a run back in February, while state Attorney General Sean Reyes has also faced pressure to enter the race.
"*" indicates required fields
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.