WASHINGTON. D.C. – Following U.S. Senator Mitt Romney’s announcement he will not seek re-election in 2024, speculation has begun to swirl about possible candidates to replace Utah’s junior senator.
For his part, Romney will only say that he hopes that he will be followed by a replacement who is “young, brilliant and accomplished.”
“But I don’t have any particular successor in mind,” Romney admitted on Sept. 13.
Much of the early speculation focused on Utah Gov. Spencer Cox as a possible replacement for Romney.
While only in his first term as governor, Cox has already begun to earn a national reputation for his focus on opposing presidential overreach on national monuments, curbing the influence of social media giants and restoring congeniality in politics with his “Disagree Better” initiative as chair of the National Governors Association.
“I doubt that Cox would want to leave the governorship,” Romney countered, however.
“Being a governor is more productive than being a senator (at federal level),” he confessed. “I don’t think (Cox) wants to make that leap.”
Cox evidently agrees, telling Fox 13 News that he has no plans to enter the senate race.
House Speaker Brad Wilson recently announced that he intends to resign from the Utah Legislature, a clear signal that he intends to run to replace Romney.
The Republican has scheduled a formal announcement of his candidacy of Sept. 27 in Draper.
Trent Staggs, the mayor of Riverton, has already thrown his hat into the ring.
The list of other potential candidates includes former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, although he has previously said that he would prefer to run for governor.
“I think that Chris Stewart, if not for the health concerns about his family, would probably be taking a close look at the race,” Romney suggested. Stewart resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept 15.
“John Curtis may also take a look at the race,” the senator added. “Also Blake Moore and Burgess Owens.”
While thanking Romney for his service to Utah and the nation, Moore has already told Capitol Hill news sources that he does not intended to run for Romney’s seat in the Senate.
“I’m grateful to have worked with (Romney) on critical issues,” Moore said.
Those issues included strengthening the U.S. posture with respect to China, preserving the Great Salt Lake, advocating for Hill Air Force Base and struggling with the thorny issue of national debt, according to Moore.
In recent days, potential candidates declining to run to replace Romney have included former Utah Speaker and gubernatorial candidate Greg Hughes and Attorney General Sean Reyes.
Whoever replaces him, Romney said, will face daunting challenges.
“The amount of debt we have ($31 trillion) is almost criminal,” Romeny explained. “No one is being serious about things that we could do about climate change … We also don’t have an immigration strategy or policy that is shaped by our current needs as a nation.”
Romney will continue in the role of Utah’s senator until January of 2025, after which he plans to visit university campuses to encourage young people to vote.