SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mitt Romney has won the Republican primary for a Utah Senate seat, setting him on the path to re-start his political career with a Senate seat left open by retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Romney secured the nomination Tuesday against state lawmaker Mike Kennedy after fending off attacks on his onetime criticism of President Donald Trump.
The former presidential candidate was the heavy favorite to win the race in Utah, where he moved after his failed 2012 presidential run and is a beloved adopted son.
Romney blasted Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, though the two men have largely buried the hatchet, and Romney has accepted the president’s endorsement.
Trump congratulated Romney, tweeting Tuesday that he looks forward to working with Romney and said “a great and loving family will be coming to D.C.”
Romney now faces Democratic Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, though GOP candidates have a big upper hand in the conservative state.
Romney moved to Utah after his failed 2012 presidential run. He’s known for turning around the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics after a bribery scandal and later becoming the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major political party.
It was there that he delivered a speech during the 2016 election calling then-candidate Trump a “phony” and a “fraud.” His tone has changed considerably since then, and earlier this month he predicted that Trump would “solidly” win re-election in 2020.
Romney was forced into a primary after a narrow loss to Kennedy in front of a right-leaning group of core party members at the state GOP convention in April. The two were forced into a runoff primary since neither won 60 percent of delegates’ votes to secure the nomination outright.
Kennedy positioned himself as the homegrown, conservative candidate. Romney, meanwhile, argued that his national clout would give Utah a leg up.
Romney raised nearly $2 million for his campaign over the past two months, while Kennedy took in $152,000.
Editor’s note: Story updated to include Donald Trump’s tweet.
Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press
Associated Press writers Julian Hattem and Rick Bowmer in Salt Lake City and Michelle L. Price in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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