OREM — Former Republican governor and presidential nominee Mitt Romney is off to a fast start in his bid for U.S. Senate, leading Jenny Wilson 49.5 percent to 46.3 percent in first returns, mostly out of Salt Lake County.
The Associated Press and CNN called the race for Romney just after the polls closed at 8 p.m.
“This is the kind of celebration I was anticipating six years ago. You can dream,” Gov. Gary Herbert said, referring to Romney’s failed 2012 presidential bid.
About 300 Romney supporters gathered at his campaign headquarters to celebrate his expected victory. Access to the event was tightly controlled with guest check-in, VIP passes and parking lot attendants.
Though he fell short of winning the ultimate Washington prize in 2012, Romney appears on his way to beating Democratic Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson in a race that really wasn’t in doubt since the day he jumped in last February. Being forced into a primary election in June proved to be more of a distraction than a challenge.
Romney will replace retiring seven-term GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, who urged the former Salt Lake Olympics leader to run. Though he will head to the nation’s capital as Utah’s junior senator, Romney will have instant credibility with his Republican colleagues, though he won’t wield near the power of the venerable Hatch.
Utahns shouldn’t expect Romney to be a counterbalance to President Donald Trump, at least when it comes to policy. He has, by and large, agreed with the Trump agenda, high tariffs on foreign goods being an exception. He also may disagree with the administration’s approach to Russia.
Romney has distanced himself from his 2016 comments when he called Trump a “fraud” and a “phony,” but said he would call out the president when he makes racist, misogynistic or anti-immigrant remarks.
Romney’s stated priorities include reducing the $21 trillion national debt and pushing for a balanced budget amendment. Some observers expect him to seek positions on the Senate foreign relations and national security committees.
At 71, Romney will be the oldest first-term U.S. senator ever elected in Utah. He has said he doesn’t expect to serve more than two terms. He ruled out running for president again.
Early on in the campaign, political opponents, including conservative Republicans, questioned Romney’s Utah ties and complained that his entry in the race should drive a conversation, not a coronation.
Romney made a point to familiarize himself with the state, traveling to all 29 counties and holding events around Utah.
Wilson, 53, started campaigning months before Hatch announced his retirement, expecting to challenge the longtime senator whose popularity in Utah was waning or run for an open seat should he step aside. Instead, she got Utah’s favorite adopted son.
Though facing an uphill battle, Wilson campaigned hard on limited resources, raising less than $1 million compared to Romney’s nearly $5 million, including $1.2 million from his presidential campaign account.
Wilson, a former chief of staff to Democratic Congressman Bill Orton, called for a new generation of leadership in Washington and “homegrown” representation for the state.
Source:: Deseret News – Utah News