Utah’s first competitive Republican primary for an open U.S. Senate seat in 30 years will also be its most crowded.

On Tuesday, June 25, registered Utah GOP voters will decide their pick to replace the onetime GOP presidential nominee and one-term Beehive State senator, Mitt Romney. They will have four candidates to choose from in a race that has been defined by big money, big promises and a big endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

When Romney announced in September he would not be seeking reelection, a diverse cast of political veterans and some long shots saw an opportunity, while one candidate saw his stated reason for running disappear.

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs was the first to officially declare his intention to run for the state’s junior senator position in May of 2023, taking aim at Romney and the “establishment.”

Shortly after Romney made his decision not to run again, former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, who had formed a Senate exploratory committee in April 2023, resigned from his spot in the state legislature and joined Staggs in making his congressional ambitions concrete.

Trump’s kingmaker status is being put to the test with his Utah Senate endorsement

Over the following months, 3rd District Rep. John Curtis explored a potential Senate bid, announced he would not pursue the spot in Congress’ higher chamber and then reopened the door for consideration. By the time the candidate filing period rolled around in early January, Curtis had thrown his hat in the ring, along with a total of nine other candidates.

The overflowing field of 2024 hopefuls also featured Moxie Pest Control CEO Jason Walton, political consultant Carolyn Phippen and son of the late Sen. Orrin Hatch, Brent Hatch.

Ten candidates were reduced to just four — Staggs, Curtis, Wilson and Walton — following the state GOP nominating convention in April where Staggs won in a landslide with 70% of delegate votes in the final round. Curtis came in second with 30%. The win for Staggs came just hours after he received an unexpected call from the party’s presumptive 2024 presidential nominee.

Donald Trump wades into Utah’s Senate race

Trump put his thumb on the scale in favor of Staggs the morning of April 27 after Staggs did all he could to carve out a lane as the most Trump-aligned candidate, including by securing endorsements from some of Trump’s most well-known allies in Congress and conservative media.

The endorsement came as a surprise to many Utah politicos who thought Trump would hold his hand in the heavily red state because a Trump-friendly Republican was almost sure to win the race and because an endorsement for Staggs, or any of the other candidates seeking Trump’s endorsement, would be an uncertain gamble for a man who likes to win.

In a last-minute video posted on Saturday, Trump, who had remained mostly quiet on Utah’s Senate race following his endorsement, called Staggs “a little bit of a long shot” but reaffirmed that the candidate had his “complete and total endorsement.”

“He doesn’t have the campaign finance that some of the opponents have but sometimes that doesn’t matter. I didn’t either, and a lot of people don’t and they end up winning big,” Trump said.

Pro-Curtis PACs drops $2 million against Staggs during final 2 weeks of primary

Staggs currently trails Curtis in terms of fundraising and polling. Curtis raised nearly $610,000 between April and June with more than $575,000 left on hand, while Staggs raised just shy of $260,000 with more than $375,000 in cash on hand during that same window. In the final two weeks of the primary, pro-Curtis political action committees have spent over $2 million to oppose Staggs.

A Deseret News-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll conducted in early June found Curtis ahead of Staggs 34% to 16%, with 33% of voters saying they were unsure. Wilson and Walton trailed with 12% and 4%, respectively. Curtis, Wilson and Walton each qualified for the primary ballot by gathering 28,000 signatures certified by the state.

A Noble Predictive Insights poll released Monday found Curtis with a 20-percentage-point lead among likely Republican primary voters in Utah, with 48% saying they lean toward Curtis and 28% for Staggs. The poll found Curtis expanding his lead when narrowed to “Party-first Republicans” and Staggs shooting to 55% among “Trump-first Republicans.” Wilson netted 9% and Walton came away with 6%, according to the poll.

A Trump endorsement makes nearly 4 out of 10 Utah Republican primary voters more likely to support a candidate in the Senate race, the Deseret News recently reported. A similar portion of registered primary-voting Republicans are not impacted by a Trump endorsement, while one-fifth of Republican voters say it pushes them away from a candidate, the Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found.

Poll: How will Trump’s endorsement influence Utah Republican primaries?

Where do Utah’s GOP Senate candidates stand on the issues?

As with Republican politicians and voters across the country, Utah’s GOP Senate candidates have focused on immigration policy, the rising cost of living and federal spending.

However, the candidates have sought to differentiate themselves with Curtis pointing to his record of effective conservative representation in the U.S. House, especially on public lands issues, even as Staggs has staked out an uncompromising position on Ukraine aid and budget fights, saying a Republican majority is needed in Congress and the White House to save the country.

Wilson has framed himself as a legislative leader with the the will and the know-how to bring Utah’s fiscal integrity to the dysfunction of Washington, D.C. Walton, on the other hand, says his business background frees him to make the radical changes that career politicians fear.

In their first and only televised debate, the four opponents agreed that the Biden administration was to blame for record-breaking border crossings and called for a return to Trump-era policies.

GOP Senate candidates come after Curtis in debate

But in addition to supporting measures like building a border wall and forcing migrants to await immigration proceedings in Mexico, Curtis said he had proposed legislation to create state work visas and remove certain country caps for migrants.

All four candidates have expressed a willingness to reform the country’s biggest drivers of debt, government retirement and health care programs. But Walton went further, calling for the immediate repeal of Obamacare which he called “socialism.”

Wilson focused on right-sizing the federal budget process and vowed to never vote for the massive omnibus spending bills cobbled together by congressional leadership.


Staggs used his final moments of the debate to accuse Curtis of benefiting from his position through stock trades. Staggs attempted to reference some of Curtis’ pandemic-era investments. Curtis called the attack a “cheap shot” and said he had sold off all of his stocks. Curtis later explained the stock purchases in question were made by a private financial adviser.

The day after: Rep. Curtis responds to Staggs stock accusation from Senate debate

When can I vote for the Republican Senate primary in Utah?

Ballots were sent out to active registered Republican voters between June 4 and June 18. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked no later than the day before Election Day — by the end of the day on Monday. Mail-in ballots may be deposited in drop boxes, or at any in-person vote center, by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Voters can also vote in-person on Election Day between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. A valid ID is required. You can find out where, when and how to vote in your area by visiting this page on the Vote.Utah.gov website.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary election will face Democratic and third-party nominees in the general election on Nov. 5.

Here’s a guide to our 2024 primary coverage
Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.