WEST VALLEY CITY — Mitt Romney was forced Saturday into a Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Utah as he looks to restart his political career by replacing long-serving Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Romney remains the heavy favorite overall to win the Senate seat in November. But if he had won the votes of a majority of the far-right leaning party delegates at the state GOP convention Saturday, he would have bypassed a primary altogether.
Instead, he was edged out by state lawmaker Mike Kennedy, who got 51 percent of the vote to Romney’s 49 percent.
Voters will decide between the two in a June 26 primary. Romney previously secured his spot on the ballot by gathering signatures.
Romney went up against 11 other candidates at the convention, mostly political newcomers who questioned Romney’s criticism of President Donald Trump and the depth of his ties to Utah.
St. George attorney Larry Meyers was eliminated as a candidate for the party’s nomination in a preliminary round of voting.
Kennedy, a doctor and lawyer, got big applause from the crowd as he railed against the national debt, Common Core education standards and former President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Romney, 71, asked for delegates’ votes after spending two months on the campaign trail visiting dairy farms, taking selfies with college students and making stump speeches in small towns.
After his failed 2012 presidential campaign, he moved to Utah, where he is also known for his role in the 2002 Winter Olympics and for becoming the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major political party.
He’s worked to keep the focus on state issues rather than his history of well-documented feuds with Trump, who he called a “con-man” and a phony during the 2016 race. Trump fired back that Romney “choked like a dog” during his own White House run.
The two men have shown signs of making peace, and Romney has accepted Trump’s endorsement, but he won’t say whether he will support Trump for reelection in 2020.
Romney told reporters Saturday that he wants to see what the field of candidates looks like before making any commitment.
“In terms of what happens in 2020, we’re going to wait and see who runs,” he said backstage at the Utah Republican convention. “If I had to make that decision today, I’d be missing the opportunity to find out what they’re going to do for Utah.”
He has said that he supports many of Trump’s policies but is also not afraid to criticize the president when necessary.
Stewart secures nomination for Congressional District 2
U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart held off a pair of opponents to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. House in the 2nd Congressional District, which covers a large portion of Southern Utah.
The three-term lawmaker defeated a state party official and a businessman at the convention.
Stewart will be the heavy favorite in the solidly Republican district. He last won reelection in 2016 by nearly 30 percentage points.
The former Air Force pilot, businessman and author is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He has defended President Donald Trump against claims of Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election.
Districts 1, 3 and 4 – Bishop, Love secure nomination; Curtis goes to primary
U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop held off a challenger at the convention and has been chosen as the nominee for the state’s solidly republican 1st Congressional District as he pursues what he says will be his final term in office.
U.S. Rep. John Curtis failed to secure nomination for reelection for the 3rd Congressional District and must now head to a primary against Chris Herrod in June. Neither Curtis nor Herrod, a former state lawmaker, won the 60 percent necessary to win the Republican nomination Saturday.
U.S. Rep. Mia Love is coasting to the general election after she was formally nominated for reelection for the state’s 4th Congressional District. The two-term incumbent was unopposed at the convention.
Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST and JULIAN HATTEM, Associated Press. St. George News contributed to this report.
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