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The latest on who might run for Romney’s Senate seat

With Sen. Mitt Romney not running again, more candidates are expected to jump in the race

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Former national security adviser to President Donald Trump and potential candidate for U.S. Senate Robert C. O’Brien talks after doing an interview at his home in the Greater Salt Lake area on Tuesday, July 18, 2023.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The potential primary field in the race to become Utah’s next junior senator immediately began to grow after Sen. Mitt Romney’s announcement Wednesday that he will not seek a second term.

Roosevelt Mayor Rod Bird Jr. announced his candidacy Monday, bringing the number of candidates who have filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission up to five.

However, Robert O’Brien, a former national security adviser to Donald Trump, announced on The Hugh Hewitt Show Monday morning he would not run for the seat after praying with his wife about the decision. It had been reported that O’Brien was being encouraged to run by insiders from across the conservative political spectrum, including Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc.

O’Brien said he is encouraging former Congressman Jason Chaffetz to run for the seat. Chaffetz has previously said he would rather run for governor.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Tim Ballard, the founder and former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, an anti-child sex trafficking organization, said on the Sean Spicer Show on Fox News digital, that he was seriously considering a run for the Senate. That came after multiple sources said Ballard was looking to announce his intent to enter the race in coming days, but before news spread about fresh controversy surrounding him.

If Ballard joins the race, he will face Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who announced he would challenge Romney for his seat in May, and likely Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson as well, who formed an an exploratory committee for a 2024 bid in April.

Here’s a list of those who have declared their candidacy, those who appear likely to jump in the race, and others whose names have been thrown around as possible contenders:

Who has declared their candidacy for the 2024 U.S. Senate race in Utah?

  • Trent Staggs is the mayor of Riverton, Utah. He has served in elected office in Riverton for 10 years, first as a city councilor and then as mayor.
  • Brad Wilson is the state House Speaker, a position he has held since 2018. He was first elected to represent Kaysville in the state legislature in 2010.
  • Rod Bird Jr. is the mayor of Roosevelt, Utah. Prior to his election in 2017, he founded Paragon Oilfield Products, which provides pipes and hoses for industrial and agricultural use.
  • Tyrone Jensen is a self-described political commentator who ran for Utah’s 2nd District seat in 2023 and 2020 as a Republican, and as a write-in candidate in the 2018 Senate election.
  • Gabriel Blanco-Lobo is a data scientist in the Salt Lake City area, according to his LinkedIn.

Who else might enter the 2024 U.S. Senate race in Utah?

  • Kirk Jowers is the CEO and founder of ADDAX, an overlanding camper business. Jowers previously worked as president of North America for doTERRA, as director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics and as a legal counsel to congressional and gubernatorial candidates. Sources close to Jowers say he is considering a run.
  • Jason Chaffetz is a former congressman and currently works as a Fox News commentator and podcast host. He has also authored several books.
  • John Curtis is the congressman representing Utah’s 3rd District. He was elected in 2017 after serving nearly two terms as mayor of Provo, Utah. Curtis said Wednesday he had not closed the door on a senate run. “Be it in the House or Senate, there’s much more to accomplish for Utah and I look forward to getting things done.”
  • Carolyn Phippen is the Executive Director of Freedom Front, a pro-business lobbying group based in Utah. Utah GOP chair Rob Axson floated her name as someone who is seriously considering launching a senate campaign.

Who’s not running

  • Utah Gov. Spencer Cox told FOX 13 he had no plans to enter the race.
  • Greg Hughes also told FOX 13 he will not run.
  • Sean Reyes said Wednesday he had decided not to run.
  • Blake Moore told AXIOS he is not planning on running.

Jason Perry, the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, told Politico he’s keeping his eye on Boyd Matheson, a KSL News Radio host and former chief of staff to Sen. Mike Lee; and Brad Bonham, a founder of multiple businesses and the first entrepreneur-in-residence of the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity.

A list of other names being floated as possible 2024 hopefuls was compiled by Deseret News columnists LaVarr Webb and Frank Pignanelli. You can read it here.

When do candidates need to file by?

To have a chance at qualifying for the Utah primary and general election ballots in 2024 candidates will need to fill out forms with the Federal Election Commission, which regulates campaign fundraising, and with the Lt. Gov.’s office during the state’s filing period which is Jan. 2-8.

Utah requires U.S. Senate candidates to pay a $1,355 filing fee and receive their party’s nomination during an official convention or by gathering 28,000 certified signatures for members of registered state parties, or 1,000 for unaffiliated candidates.

The Utah Republican Party nominating convention to select one or two candidates to move on to the primary will be April 27.

The 2024 primary election in Utah will be held on June 25, followed by the general election on Nov. 5, 2024.