Rep. John Curtis reduced his Senate Republican primary win down to one thing: he’s normal.

A day after his victory, Curtis sat down with reporters and editors in the Deseret News newsroom to discuss the election and his plans for the senate. Curtis said he sees his win in Tuesday’s election as a sign his brand of Utah conservatism resonates with Beehive State voters.

Curtis pushed back on the national narrative about his race, saying his “lane” as a lawmaker is often stereotyped by national media who label GOP candidates as either MAGA or moderate.

“I like to define it as normal,” Curtis told the Deseret News. “I don’t think most Utah voters define themselves by conservative or moderate or liberal. But I think they tend to define themselves more by — for lack of better words — Utah values.”

In a time of political polarization, Curtis said he has been able to maintain independence and a close connection to his 3rd District constituency by aligning himself with Utah values that transcend the partisan news cycle.

According to Curtis, Utah values overlap with Republican principles like limited government and personal responsibility while also including government’s ability to help and protect vulnerable groups.

“I think sometimes people take that fiscal conservatism and just assume we’re that way on every issue. And I think it’s far more complicated than that,” Curtis said.

John Curtis declared victor in Utah GOP Senate primary race

Curtis wins GOP primary

The Republican race to replace Romney as Utah’s junior senator was called by The Associated Press for Curtis within half an hour of polls closing Tuesday night.

Preliminary results, which will continue to be updated throughout Wednesday, show Curtis with a more than 20-percentage-point lead over his next closest competitor, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who became the GOP convention nominee in April after receiving the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

As of Wednesday afternoon, updated totals from all 29 Utah counties had Curtis with just over 50% of the vote, with especially strong showings in Salt Lake County and counties in the congressman’s 3rd Congressional District. Staggs held a distant second place with 31% of the vote, winning a plurality in Iron and Washington counties.

Former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and Moxie Pest Control CEO Jason Walton trailed with the former garnering 13% statewide and the latter 6%. Vote totals are still being updated.

“The difference between a majority and a plurality is important,” Curtis said. “Last night, to get even one vote over 50 was very symbolic to me and I do think it is a loud statement, particularly with some really qualified opponents in that race.”

From the beginning of the year, Curtis had led his opponents in fundraising and favorability, receiving many times more in campaign donations and PAC endorsements and leading in multiple polls by large margins.

Pro-Curtis PACs drops $2 million against Staggs during final 2 weeks of primary
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, meet with Deseret News editors and reporters in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 26, 2024. Curtis was victorious in his Senate primary race. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

What changes and what stays the same, if Curtis switches to the Senate

As the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, Curtis will advance to the general election on Nov. 5 where he will face off against Democratic nominee Caroline Gleich.

But in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat for Senate since 1970, Curtis is already making plans to carry his momentum from the U.S. House to Congress’ upper chamber where terms are longer and individual members are more powerful.

“It does give me this runway that is much longer to go deeper on issues,” Curtis said, pointing to permitting reform as a complicated issue that requires years to make progress on. “The difference between being one of 435 and being one of 100, combined with the Senate rules, gives an individual senator far more ability to influence legislation than in the House.”

During the campaign, Curtis sought to differentiate himself from the rest of the pack by leaning on his congressional track record as one of Congress’ most productive and accessible lawmakers. He highlighted achievements in shifting the conversation around energy policy, transferring historic amounts of federal land to Utah, taking a strong position on Chinese aggression and pushing back on budget recommendations from both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Curtis says his success depended on his ability to navigate split government control and negotiate with members with diverse viewpoints to secure conservative wins.

“I’ve been there for seven years and most of that seven years was a divided Congress. And the only way you get things done is to find people that you can work with who have very different opinions,” Curtis said.

Curtis’ time in office gave him the experience of working with both President Joe Biden and Trump. Under the former president, Curtis said there were times when he was “wind at (Trump’s) back in promoting Utah values,” specifically on tax reform, deregulation and the Abraham Accords. “But there were other times, and I’ll point to his spending, where I was not aligned with him.”

The congressman called it a false narrative that Republicans are either all in or all out for Trump. Curtis said his support for Trump, if he’s reelected, will be contingent on him promoting causes and policies in line with Utah values.

Rep. John Curtis wants to heal a climate of distrust in the Senate

Will Curtis work with Trump if he’s elected to the Senate?

In the House, Curtis has made a name for himself spearheading efforts to give Republicans a seat at the table in environmental discussions. He formed the Conservative Climate Caucus in 2021, which has quickly grown to be one of the largest groups in the House, and is recognized as an expert on an affordable, reliable and clean transition to energy dominance for the United States, Curtis said.

The congressman doesn’t know if he’ll start a new climate conscious group for conservatives in the Senate but he said he will “look really hard to find a way to leave my stamp in the Senate; the same stamp that I’ve left in the House.”

His team has been evaluating what committee “holes” exist in the Utah delegation that need to be filled, Curtis said. As a senator, Curtis said he would be interested in sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee or Financial Services Committee — areas where Utah currently lacks representation but that make up a major part of its economy.

Curtis’ first item of business upon entering the Senate will be voting in his caucus’ hotly contested leadership race to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Curtis said he’s looking for “somebody that can unite the factions within the Republican Party in the Senate” because he’s seen in the House the kind of dysfunction that results “when you don’t do that.”

“It’s just so clear to me after this last year-and-a-half in the House that without that you’re totally powerless, and with it you got a lot of ability to move that Republican agenda forward,” Curtis said.

After the primary race was called, Curtis told reporters he and Utah’s senior senator, Mike Lee, have a “relationship of trust and respect” after already working together for seven years. Lee came to Curtis’ primary watch party on Tuesday evening to congratulate the congressman and to discuss future committee assignments.

Curtis said he is committed to making the changes, which he said are not “that elusive,” to put the country’s fiscal house in order, including reforming Social Security. The expiration of Trump’s tax cuts in 2025 will be a good opportunity to renew them in a way that doesn’t grow the deficit, Curtis added.

But Curtis says the biggest issues he might face as a senator are likely impossible to predict. He says upon entering Congress he never would have guessed he would have to vote to approve pandemic aid, certify an election after a riot inside the U.S. Capitol, oppose two impeachments and give military support to Israel and Ukraine.

“I think that’s just kind of the era that we’re in,” Curtis said.

The conservative case for climate action

Why did Curtis run for Senate?

Curtis’ launch to the Senate nomination almost never left the ground.

After Romney announced he would not be seeking reelection in September, Curtis explored the opportunity, announced he would not pursue the position and then reopened the door for consideration before finally entering the race at the beginning of the candidate filing period in January.


Curtis said he initially felt the same hesitancy about running for his House seat in 2017. But then, as in his Senate bid, conversations with his wife and children — whose motto is “Curtises do hard things” — changed his mind.

“I think what’s happened in both of those cases is that initial ‘no’ was based a little bit more on what was easier. And then as I spent more time with it and spoke with more people I felt ... compelled to do it,” Curtis said.

Curtis can’t promise whether he will or won’t serve a second term, he said. That will depend on whether he still feels excited and productive in his position. But there is another position he wants to commit “no” to.

“I can tell you,” he said with a smile, “I will never run for president.”

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