Who Will Mitt Romney’s Successor Be?

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #119 | By: Courtney Denning | January 29, 2024
Photo taken from: www.motherjones.com
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Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) is stepping down from his position in Congress, leaving a Utah Senate seat open in the 2024 election. Romney gained his seat in 2018 after his two bids for the presidency in 2008 and 2012, with him winning the nomination in 2012 but losing to Barack Obama. Prior to this, he served as the governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.

In recent years, Romney has garnered attention for his criticisms of former president Donald Trump. He has frequently expressed his fears for the future of the Republican Party if it continues in the way he believes Trump is leading it.

The race for his former Senate seat exemplifies this growing divide in the GOP. Since Utah is an overwhelmingly conservative state, the winner of this seat will likely be decided in the Republican primaries on June 25, 2024. Although most are confident that a Republican will win the seat, there are stark differences in the ideologies of the candidates running for this Republican nomination. The winner of this race will signal whether the traditional “Romney Conservatism” or the emerging “Trump Republicanism” will dominate the state’s politics.

Analysis:

Here are profiles of the leading candidates to replace Romney:

Rep. John Curtis 

Curtis has been serving in Congress as a Representative of Utah’s 3rd district since 2017. An early survey taken even before he announced he was running for the spot placed Curtis as the front-runner for the election. Unlike other prominent Utah politicians, Curtis has not endorsed Donald Trump, but has promised to vote for him if he is chosen as the presidential nominee.

Brent Orrin Hatch 

Brent Orrin Hatch is running for the same seat that his father, Orrin Hatch, held for 42 years. Hatch has been running his own law private practice for the past 30 years, and he focuses his campaign on fiscal responsibility and decreasing the budget deficit. He has officially endorsed Donald Trump for president.

Brad Wilson 

Utah’s current Speaker of the House, Brad Wilson, is stepping down to run for the Senate as a self-proclaimed “conservative fighter” and Trump supporter.

Trent Staggs 

Staggs, the soon-to-be former Mayor of Riverton, UT, has also thrown his hat into the ring. In his campaign video announcing his candidacy, Staggs has endorsed Trump and set himself apart from Romney, saying that he’s “not a career politician or a Massachusetts millionaire.” Staggs is running in opposition to Romney’s legacy, criticizing his voting record and positioning himself as an uncompromising conservative.

Carolyn Phippen

Phippen, a former staff member for Utah Sen. Mike Lee, also represents a stronger conservative push for the Senate seat. She refers to herself as “not a politician” and publicly aligns with Trump. She is anti-federal spending, pro-life, pro-border wall, and staunchly conservative.

Josh Randall 

Randall’s campaign centers strong families and “Utah values” with an emphasis on Christian virtues. His run is set apart by a frugal budget. Randall said that he wants to model his political career after that of current Senator Mike Lee, a strong supporter of Trump.

Democrat Archie Williams III and Robert Newcomb of the Independent American Party are also running for Utah’s Senate Seat.

Most candidates running for this Senate position have been outspoken supporters of Donald Trump, marking a potential shift from the legacy left by Romney. The one candidate that could be expected to follow more closely in Romney’s ideological footsteps is Rep. John Curtis, who has not yet officially endorsed Trump.

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