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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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How Mitt Romney’s Empty Seat Has Shifted the Senate Race

Utah Speaker of the House Brad Wilson has officially entered the race to challenge established candidate Trent Staggs.
Vanessa Hudson
Brad Wilson announcing he is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mitt Romney, who recently announced he won’t run for reelection.(Photo by Vanessa Hudson | The Daily Utah Chronicle).


Utah Sen. Mitt Romney’s announcement that he will not be seeking another term has incited a political scurry for the now empty seat, with candidates such as Tim Ballard, former Utah Speaker of the House Brad Wilson and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs emerging in the race.

Romney formally announced his retirement in mid-September with the sentiment that Utah and the nation as a whole was in need of younger leadership.

“It’s time for a new generation of leaders,” Romney said in an interview with NPR.

Brad Wilson

The seasoned Republican’s announced departure from the senate was shortly followed by Wilson’s resignation from the Utah legislature, which many at the time believed was an attempt to narrow his focus on a campaign for senate.

Wilson was rumored to be looking at the senate seat for quite some time, having opened an exploratory committee in April, but only recently announced his official candidacy in late September at a rally in Draper.

In his announcement for candidacy, Wilson painted a picture of an America in a crisis, threatened by both radical Democrats and moderate Republicans.

“What you and I are watching right now across this country is a clear and present danger,” Wilson said. “If we don’t act in Washington, Joe Biden, and radical leftists as well as go-along-to-get-along Republicans will take us down a dead-end street.”

Wilson’s spirited announcement called upon his supporters to come to the aid of what he believed to be an America in decline.

“We have an opportunity to send a conservative fighter to the U.S. Senate armed with Utah’s conservative values, who is willing to fight for change,” Wilson said.

He also touched on many of the traditional conservative party line issues like abortion, gun control and government spending, but made a point to separate himself from other candidates in the race, citing his experience as an established conservative leader with a record of cutting taxes.

“As speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, my record on taxes is very clear,” Wilson said. “No other candidate in this race can come close to matching here. I have cut everyone’s income tax not once, not twice, but three times.”

Wilson further drew attention to his conservative record with issues like the Second Amendment, referencing his assistance in the passage of constitutional carry in Utah.

“There is an all-out war going on right now to take away our right as Americans to keep and bear arms,” he said. “I’m going to lead a counterattack like we did here in Utah.”

Trent Staggs

Staggs, the mayor of Riverton, Utah and another conservative campaigning for Utah Senate, has been in the race since May, months before Romney announced his retirement and Wilson joined the race.

In an interview with the Chronicle, he said candidates joining the race after Romney’s announcement are opportunists who aren’t authentically looking to support Utah communities.

“These other candidates like Brad Wilson, and anyone else jumping in, really, in my view, did not have the courage to take on the establishment,” he said. “That’s really what my candidacy is about. They care more about maintaining power and enriching themselves more than they do about really taking care of the American people.”

Staggs said that Utah needs a conservative who has fought “time and time again” against government overreach and mismanaged spending. He referred to himself as an “outsider” compared to “establishment Republicans” like Wilson and Romney.

“[Wilson]’s got very rich establishment donors,” he added. “Many of these people are the same people that supported Mitt Romney. They’re Democrat or establishment moderate donors.”

Staggs made a point to establish himself as a conservative candidate “on the front lines of fighting government overreach.”

“As a city official we get it on all levels,” he said. “Whether it’s saying no to mask mandates and vaccine mandates, cutting taxes or finding more innovative solutions to lower the cost of government for Riverton, as we’ve done time and time again.”


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About the Contributors
Jack McIntyre, News Writer
Vanessa Hudson
Vanessa Hudson, Editor in Chief
Vanessa is from Grand Junction, Colorado. She's a junior majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in modern dance and political science. She is passionate about what she reports on, and she usually winds up writing about local politics and issues. When Vanessa isn't writing, you can find her trying out some new choreography, listening to public radio or watching Marvel and Star Wars movies.

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    Wehl ChrisOct 9, 2023 at 1:04 am

    Wilson and Staggs seem to be trying to out-fascist each other.