Utah political leaders responded to Sen. Mitt Romney’s announcement on Wednesday that he will not seek a second term, most with praise, some with political jockeying.

Utah’s senior U.S. Sen. Mike Lee thanked Romney “for his many years of public service,” in a statement on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“I wish him the very best of success in his future endeavors, and I know that his family will enjoy the opportunity to spend more time with him,” Lee said.

Mitt Romney talks about who might replace him — and what comes next

Less than an hour after news broke that Romney would not run for reelection, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox also took to X to express his gratitude to the senator, who will leave office in January 2025.

“Senator Romney has served with distinction at the highest levels of government and we’re incredibly grateful for his commitment to this country,” Cox said. “Our state and our nation have benefited from his principled leadership and patriotism.”

A similar sentiment was shared by former presidential and U.S. Senate candidate Evan McMullin, who challenged Lee as an independent in last year’s general election.

“Senator Romney has proven to be one of the great patriots of our time, devoting his life to the preservation of American democracy and our Constitution — not for personal gain, but for true love of country,” McMullin said on X. “I’m disappointed to learn of his retirement and echo his calls for a new generation of American leadership. Thank you, Mitt!”

Former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also weighed in to compliment his “friend.”

“Senator Romney has served the citizens of Utah and is a leader who got things done in DC. He leaves a lasting legacy as a true statesman. Best wishes as he completes his exemplary service in the US Senate,” Herbert said on X.

Kirk Jowers, a long-time Romney adviser and the former director and general counsel of Romney’s leadership PACs, told the Deseret News that Romney was “always focused on doing what he thought would move the country forward.”

“Mitt Romney’s legacy of service is one of prayerful principles and purposeful integrity,” he said. “I always respected the dignity with which he approached public service and loved that he always strove for unity over bombastic division.”

Some of Utah’s House delegation cited specific achievements from Romney’s time in office that affected their districts, others kept it simple.

“I thank Sen. Romney for his service to Utah and thoughtful message on his decision,” said Rep. Blake Moore of Utah’s 1st Congressional District. “I’m grateful to have worked with him on critical issues including strengthening our nation’s posture against China, preserving the Great Salt Lake, advocating for Hill Air Force Base, and tackling our national debt. I wish Sen. Romney the very best in his next endeavors.”

Rep. Chris Stewart, who retires from his 2nd District seat on Friday, thanked the senator on X for his “dedicated public service to our state and to the nation” and wished him and his wife “all the best.”

Similarly, Rep. John Curtis of Utah’s 3rd Congressional District expressed “appreciation to Senator Romney for his dedication to public service,” adding, “I look forward to our continued work on behalf of Utahns and wish Ann and Mitt the best.”

Curtis also told the Deseret News he was encouraged by “friends” urging him “to run for the Senate.”

“Utahns appreciation for the work my team and I do in Congress is heartening. Be it in the House or Senate, there’s much more to accomplish for Utah and I look forward to getting things done,” Curtis said in a statement provided to the Deseret News.

Kirk Jowers, the former chairman and general counsel of Romney’s leadership PACs who remains in touch with Romney

Former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, a Utah resident who served under former President Donald Trump, referenced Romney’s political heritage.

“Like his dad, George Romney, before him, Mitt Romney has served his state and country with honor for over two decades,” O’Brien said on X.

Romney’s impact and legacy were commented on by Chris Karpowitz, co-director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, and Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, in statements given to the Deseret News.

“Mitt Romney’s term in the Senate will be remembered. A former presidential standard-bearer, he represented an alternative vision of the Republican Party, one that prizes very different values than the party of Donald Trump,” Karpowitz said. “Most of all, Romney will be remembered for his political courage. He repeatedly chose his conscience and the Constitution over partisanship, even in the midst of withering political pressure. ... It is the rare politician who can leave Washington, DC knowing that he remained true to his core values even when they were tested in the most direct and public way possible.”

Perry echoed the significance of Romney’s decision, saying, “This is a generational announcement that he just made.”

“He’s going out at a time when his popularity is high, when his approvals are increasing and people are going to have a chance to reflect on his impact, which has been outsized over the years,” Perry said.

Former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz wished the Romney family “all the best with good health and prosperity” and commented on the state’s 2024 Senate race.

“I do hope Utah ultimately elects, a solid, proven, and tested conservative to deal with the biggest and most tumultuous issues facing our country and the state of Utah,” Chaffetz said.

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Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who officially entered the race to replace Romney several months ago, has spent his campaign attacking Utah’s junior senator from the right.

“My message will not change,” he said on X. “Thank you for stepping aside, Senator Romney. Onward to ensure that Utah has the America First, small government champion they deserve, and I intend to be that.”

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson has formed an exploratory committee for a 2024 Senate bid but has not yet officially declared his intent to enter the race. Following Romney’s announcement, Wilson thanked the senator “for his many years of service” and “his contributions to our state,” while acknowledging they “did not always see eye to eye.”

Wilson continued, teasing an official announcement to follow, “We are at a crossroads, and it’s never been more important to elect a strong conservative fighter to the U.S. Senate. The stakes are too high, and we need a leader with the guts to stand up and get things done for the people of this state.”

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