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Josh Romney will 'strongly support' Sen. Hatch re-election, still eying own bid for governor

SALT LAKE CITY — Josh Romney, son of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said Friday he will "strongly support" Sen. Orrin Hatch if the Utah Republican runs for re-election in 2018.

"Sen. Hatch has done a tremendous job representing the state of Utah. If he decides to run again, I would strongly support him and do anything I could to be helpful to his re-election efforts," Josh Romney said in a statement.

Romney, a Salt Lake-based real estate developer, has been seen as a possible candidate for the Senate in 2018, but he said again Friday he's more interested in the governor's race in four years.

"I have been consistently asked by others to consider running for political office, and running for governor in 2020 is definitely something I am strongly considering," Romney said.

Hatch has not yet said whether he will seek an eighth term. He is the most senior Republican in the Senate and serves as Senate president pro tempore, third in the line of presidential succession.

On Tuesday, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. confirmed he is considering running for the Senate in 2018. Huntsman, a former U.S. ambassador to China who ran for president in 2012, did not rule out taking on Hatch in a GOP primary.

Last January, Romney made a similar statement to the Deseret News about his interest in the governor's race after Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told the newspaper he "would take a serious, serious look" at running for governor.

Gov. Gary Herbert, who took office in 2009 when Huntsman resigned to become an ambassador, was re-elected this year to his second full term. He is not expected to run again.

Other potential gubernatorial candidates include Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, and former Congressman Jim Matheson, a Democrat.

Romney said his decision about making his first run for public office won't be affected by what others do. Instead, it will be "based on what the right thing to do is and the positive ideas and solutions I could offer for the future of Utah," he said.

In September, Romney told members of the BYU Management Society it was tough for him and his father to witness what he warned may be "permanent damage" to the Republican Party from Donald Trump's candidacy.

Mitt Romney, who was one of the president-elect's harshest critics during the campaign, is now being considered for secretary of state in the new administration. Josh Romney has not commented on his father's potential role.