Among Republican candidates jockeying to replace Sen. Mitt Romney in the Senate, the race is still wide open.

A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows about half of all registered Utah Republicans haven’t decided who they will vote for in the party’s June 25 primary.

A U.S. Senate seat rarely opens up, given the propensity of senators to remain in their seats often for decades once they’re elected. But Romney only served a single term before deciding he wouldn’t run again, saying, “Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders.”

Since Romney made his announcement in September last year, several candidates stepped up to run for the seat. The race is now fairly crowded — with 11 Republicans, three Democrats and two others — and the candidates have ramped up their campaigning and outreach efforts as they try to gain support and momentum.

That includes Brad Wilson, former speaker of the Utah House, who — like the others — is traveling up and down the state trying to convince voters he should represent them in Washington, D.C.

Wilson sat around a conference table recently in Salt Lake City with Aaron Starks, president of 47G, Utah’s aerospace and defense industry group, Ogden Mayor Ben Nadolski and a group of others interested in the state’s economic development to learn about the stress points when trying to attract businesses to Utah. It was just one of many campaign stops Wilson planned to make that day.

While campaigning can be grueling, Wilson said he enjoys it.

“I’ve never done anything like this before” he said, of running a statewide campaign. When he was a state lawmaker, he was campaigning in his hometown. But now, he meets with people from St. George up to Logan. “I’ve loved it, it’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done.”

When pressed on whether this was actually true, he insisted it was.

No matter where he campaigns, he said he’s hearing similar concerns from voters — the high cost of housing and groceries, and frustration over the porous southern border. He said he also finds most voters are proud of Utah and they are happy to live in the state.

This dovetails with Wilson’s message. He says he wants to bring Utah values to Washington, D.C., much like many of the other Republicans in the race.

Even though there are no guarantees in politics, the Senate seat in Utah is considered likely to be captured by a Republican. That makes the stretch between now and the primary election in June particularly important for the 11 Republicans in the race.

All the candidates will be doing a lot of listening over the next several months — as well as a lot of pitching themselves to voters. First, they will try to sway the Republican delegates who will pick the party’s nominee at the state convention on April 27. Then, those candidates who didn’t win at the convention but gathered 28,000 signatures to compete on the Republican primary ballot will get a chance to try to win over voters statewide.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute shows they all have their work cut out for them, with 52% of voters saying they don’t know yet who they will vote for.

The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates Jan. 16-21 of 428 registered Utah Republican voters, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.74 percentage points.

At 18%, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah captured the most support from those who know how they will vote. In response to the poll, his campaign said in a statement Wednesday, “These numbers corroborate the results of every single poll we’ve seen, with Congressman Curtis consistently leading the field.”

He told the Deseret News at his Senate campaign kickoff party on Jan. 22 that he didn’t take the decision to enter the race lightly and “spent a lot of time making sure it was the right thing.” The Utah representative said his current role has allowed voters to become familiar with him, his priorities and his conservative voting record.

Still, he said, “I like to remind people if they’re expecting me to be Mitt Romney, I’m going to disappoint them. If they’re expecting me to be Mike Lee, I’m going to disappoint them. I’m John Curtis. And I’m really happy with who that is and what I’ve been able to do and accomplish.”

Utah attorney Brent Orrin Hatch, who has worked in the administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, was four points behind Curtis, with 14%.

“While others have been running for almost a year or are sitting politicians, my campaign started only a few weeks ago,” he said in a statement in response to the poll. “I am encouraged by the results of this poll which shows me essentially tied for the lead and well ahead of the other candidates.”

Brent Hatch, Orrin’s son, joins Senate race to replace Mitt Romney

“I look forward to sharing my positive and conservative message with more Utahns. I want Utahns to know the Hatch name is one they can trust,” Hatch, who is the son of the late Sen. Orrin Hatch, added.

Wilson received the support of 8% of the respondents. “The momentum we’ve seen is undeniable, reflected in the record endorsements and unprecedented grassroots support we’ve received from all across the state,” he said in a statement about the results of the poll. “I look forward to continuing to build a movement of Utahns who are fed up with the status quo and know that now more than ever we need a bold, conservative fighter in the U.S. Senate.”

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Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs garnered 3% support. In a statement to the Deseret News, Staggs said, “While our border sits open, Washington’s concern is securing Ukraine’s border. While Americans struggle with inflation, Congress lines their pockets through insider trading. Utah is hungry for representatives willing to stand up and say ‘no more.’ That’s what I’ve done as mayor. That’s what I’ll do in the Senate.”

Accountant Josh Randall had the support of 2% of respondents. In response to the poll results, Randall said his campaign focuses on “faith, family and fiscal discipline,” adding that these are values Utahns are committed to. Randall, who describes himself as “fiscally and socially conservative,” is running a “do-it-yourself” campaign, with his wife, Brianna, as the campaign manager, as reported.

Carolyn Phippen, a Utah political consultant and communications professional who has worked as a staffer for Sen. Mike Lee and former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, earned 1% of the support, as did Jason Walton and Brian Jenkins. They did not respond to requests for comment on the poll.

Chandler Tanner, the cofounder of monthly book club Booroo, Jeremy Friedbaum, former Brigham Young University teacher and Provo resident, and Clark White, a maintenance technician at Gossner Foods and Thermo Fisher Scientific, received zero percent of the support. They also did not respond to requests for comment.

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