By Jim Ellis
Feb. 8, 2017 — Sen. Mitt Romney?
According to the Salt Lake City Deseret News, former Republican presidential nominee and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is not yet ruling out a potential 2018 Utah Senate race.
Jump-starting the speculation is Romney’s comment saying that “all doors are open” in response to a question from a Deseret political news reporter about the upcoming federal election. Romney was attending an event yesterday commemorating the 15th anniversary of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games that he directed when being interviewed.
“I don’t have any predictions on what I might do. I’m not going to open a door and I’m not going to close a door. All doors are open,” Romney stated when answering the question. Such a quote is a long way from actually expressing interest in the Utah Senate race, but it is clear he is giving himself some latitude with respect to mounting a statewide political effort.
He further stated that, “I’m not looking forward to anything political at the national level. We’ve got some races coming up here in Utah that are going to be interesting. We’ll see what happens on that front.”
About a year away from local delegates being elected at county conventions to then cast ballots at a nominating convention in April or May of 2017, the Utah Senate race has already attracted a great deal of attention.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) said during his 2012 re-election effort that he was running in his ‘last political campaign’. Recently, however, the 82-year-old Senate veteran sounded less certain that he is ready to end his decades long political career. The Hatch comments about potentially seeking re-election were made in response to statements that former governor, US Ambassador to China, and GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman made in expressing his own interest in seeking the Senate seat.
It is highly unlikely that Romney would challenge Sen. Hatch should the latter decide to run. Huntsman has already said he would consider entering the Senate race only if the seven-term lawmaker chooses to forego re-election.
Should the senator signal retirement, a Huntsman-Romney open seat Republican primary would certainly capture national attention, with no expense being spared by either wealthy contestant.
It is unlikely we will see such a pairing, however. Of the two, former Gov. Huntsman appears more inclined to run. Chances are that Romney would only move forward if he were guaranteed minimal opposition in the GOP primary.
In Utah, precinct delegates are elected to county conventions, where upon a fewer number are chosen to represent their locality at the state political party convention. There, a candidate must obtain a minimum of 40 percent to force a June primary election. If a candidate reaches 60 percent support, the individual is nominated without advancing to a primary. Once the exhaustive nomination process concludes, the official party candidates then face each other in the general election.
Though Romney formerly lived in Massachusetts before becoming governor, and then officially a California resident during his presidential campaign, the family also owns a home in the Salt Lake City area. Therefore, should he choose to enter the race, he will soon be making the Beehive State his official domain.