Sen. Mitt Romney’s decision to not run for a second term leaves the playing field wide open for Utah Republicans who want to run for his Senate seat.
“While I’m not running for reelection, I’m not retiring from the fight. I’ll be your United States Senator until January 2025. … I will advance our state’s numerous priorities,” Romney said in a public statement on Wednesday.
He told the Deseret News he wasn’t bowing out over concerns about his ability to win a Republican primary.
“The people of Utah may not agree with me on all the issues or how I voted on Donald Trump, but they do respect people who have integrity and vote their conscience,” he said. “I’ve been very pleased by the results of the most recent polls and there’s no question in my mind, were I to run again, I would win.”
As Romney prepares to depart from Washington, D.C., he “opens a door to a floodgate of candidates to replace him,” as political consultants LaVarr Webb and Frank Pignanelli wrote in an opinion piece for the Deseret News.
A July survey of 301 Republican Utah voters conducted by Noble Predictive Insights indicates the level of support for some of the potential candidates with Romney not in the running.
More than half of the Utah voters surveyed, roughly 55%, were undecided, indicating that the election is anyone’s to win, said Noble Predictive Insights in a press release.
Only one candidate on the list — Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs — has officially launched his campaign for Romney’s seat. He earned 6% support in the poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 5.65%.
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, who launched an exploratory committee earlier this year, garnered 7% of the support, as did Utah State Sen. Dr. Mike Kennedy, who ran against Romney in the 2018 Senate race in Utah. One point ahead, at 8%, was Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.
Meanwhile, Thomas Wright, a real estate broker who ran in the 2020 Utah gubernatorial election against Gov. Spencer Cox, trailed behind with 3%.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes performed the best among potential GOP candidates, with 16%. But following Romney's announcement, Reyes said he will not run for Romney's seat but he said he will seek reelection.
“I believe I am well positioned to run for and win that seat and could serve well as a senator. But, after a long time consulting with my family, praying and looking at where I can make the most difference and serve most effectively, I have decided it is not in D.C. but here at home,” he said. “So, I am announcing my run for reelection as AG in the great state of Utah.”