ELECTION 2018

Former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney Wins Utah Senate Seat

Nov 6, 2018, 8:22 PM | Updated: Nov 7, 2018, 12:54 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney handily won a U.S. Senate seat in his adopted home state of Utah on Tuesday, after a campaign where he backed off his once-fierce criticism of President Donald Trump.

The win meant Romney would replace longtime Senator Orrin Hatch, who announced plans to retire after 42 years. Romney won over Democrat Jenny Wilson, a current member of the Salt Lake County Council.

For much of the campaign he enjoyed significant voter support. Opinion polls leading up to the election showed him with 30-plus point margins over his opponent, Democrat Jenny Wilson.

Even so, Romney was out campaigning early on election day, meeting with Salt Lake County GOP candidates, and then having breakfast at a Waffle Love store in Bountiful, where he attended a campaign event with Congressman Chris Stewart chatting with voters and having a bite to eat as well.

Tuesday night, Romney, his wife Ann, and 36 other family members celebrated the victory with friends and supporters at his campaign headquarters in Orem.

Photo credit: Keith McCord, KSL-TV

“The victory tonight is more than the victory of just one candidate for the U.S. Senate. I believe it’s a call for greater dignity and respect,” Romney he told several hundred people who packed into the building.

Romney arrived about a half hour before the polls closed, and began circulating the room chatting and shaking hands with supporters. Less than an hour later, the race had been called and he was at the podium.

“I’ll be only one of 100 U.S. senators, but I believe that one person doing the right thing at the right time can have a lasting impact,” he said. “I’ll work with good men and good women on both sides of the aisle to serve the cause of America’s enduring greatness. And I will endeavor to conduct myself in a manner that is consistent with the values of our great state.”

His victory speech Tuesday night lasted only about 5 minutes, but he said he considered his victory as a call for action.

“Action on items that are long past due,” he said. “Action to finally get us on a path to a balanced federal budget; action to reform our immigration system so that legal immigration welcomes people and illegal immigration is ended. And an action to push back against the heavy hand of the federal government because Utah knows what’s best for Utah.”

Romney announced his run for Senate in February 2018, and won the Republican primary with 71 percent over Rep. Mike Kennedy. He was endorsed by Sen. Orrin Hatch and Governor Gary Herbert.

In his victory speech, Romney called for civility, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or place of birth.

He said the outcome affirmed, “we are equal, not only in the eyes of God, but also in the respect and dignity we are due from government and from our fellow Americans.”

He also outlined his priorities, including a balanced budget, immigration reform and states’ rights.

Romney was a two-time presidential candidate, losing to President Barack Obama in 2012.

He served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007, and he became prominent in Utah when we oversaw the Salt Lake Winter Olympics in 2002.

Romney was the heavy favorite to win the seat in conservative Utah, where he has held near-celebrity status after leading the 2002 Salt Lake Winter games. He was also the first member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be nominated as a presidential candidate from a major party.

Romney denounced Trump as a “fraud” and a “phony” during the 2016 campaign, but has since changed his tone, saying he approves of many Trump policies and predicting he will win another term. Trump, for his part, has endorsed Romney’s Senate run.

Romney has also pledged to continue to speak out if Trump does something significant that is “divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.” Last week, he pushed back against Trump’s depiction of the media as an “enemy of the people.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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Former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney Wins Utah Senate Seat