Sep 14, 2023 - News

Romney's retirement likely to re-shape GOP candidate field Senate race

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) answers questions in his office after announcing he will not seek re-election on Sept. 13 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Wednesday announced he would not seek a second term in the U.S. Senate to make way for the "new generation of leaders."

Why it matters: His decision is certain to bring upheaval to the GOP candidate field for the open seat.

What they're saying: "It's a tectonic shift in the Utah political landscape that Romney isn't running," Damon Cann, head of Utah State University's political science department, told Axios Salt Lake City.

  • Cann added that Romney's seat is expected to garner substantial interest from a wide range of Republicans.
  • The timing also provides ample opportunity for potential candidates to prepare for next year's race.

Between the lines: Utah Republican Party chair Robert Axson told Axios that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has the name recognition to potentially enter the race, along with Freedom Front executive director Carolyn Phippen.

  • Hughes, who earlier this year unsuccessfully sought to become the GOP nominee in Utah's 2nd Congressional District race to replace U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, told FOX 13 he didn't plan to jump into the Senate race.

Yes, but: Cann said there are former elected officials who could suffer from what some Utah political circles refer to as "the Merrill Cook problem," named after a former congressman who had a reputation for running for multiple offices.

State of play: Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who's currently running for the seat, raised $170,573 between April and June in total contributions, per Federal Election Commission filings. He loaned his campaign $50,000.

  • He raised just over $1 million in contributions during the same period and loaned himself an additional $1.2 million.
  • In a statement Wednesday, Wilson didn't say whether he would officially enter the race.
  • "I've been encouraged so far by the record-breaking fundraising, groundswell of grassroots support and unprecedented endorsements we've received," he said. "Stay tuned."

Of note: Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who's reportedly considered running, told The Messenger he planned to endorse a conservative who'll be announcing their candidacy "in the days to come."

Of note: Cann predicts former President Trump will cast a significant shadow over Utah's U.S. Senate race.


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