Take Your Mitt Off My Senate: Utah Mayor Primaries Romney

The mayor of Riverton, Utah, challenging his state’s junior senator, W. Mitt Romney, told RedState what drives him to take on the 76-year-old Black Lives Matter supporter and sworn enemy of President Donald Trump as he campaigns for his second term.


“I’ll put us on a path to a balanced budget. I’ll bring an end to illegal immigration. I’ll stop federal spending overreach; I’ll confirm conservative justices,” said Mayor Trent Staggs, who has led his city since 2017.

Staggs continued:

That is something that resonates with me and many Utahans and something we expected of Mitt Romney, and he’s not done it—and just repeatedly to see the way in which he allows personal beefs to get in the way of good governance.

We need somebody who’s bold, who’s gonna push back and fight. That’s typified my career. In my 10 years in elected office here as a local politician, enough people had come to me and said: ‘We need to change there in D.C., I agreed with them.’

The husband and father of two said his decision to take on Romney, who served as Massachusetts governor from 2003 to 2007 and in 2012 was the GOP’s presidential nominee, was a slow burn:


It was this spring that it really kind of rose to a level–kind of a fever pitch–that I couldn’t sit by idly anymore and wanted to, uh, just go ahead and take this on—and my wife has been incredibly supportive and family and what has brought us to this point. It somewhat built over time.

I mean, in 2018, to see him come in and make all the promises that he did – and we used this in our launch video. He said, “Hey, you elect me as your senator, I’ll do all these things.”

Another reason Staggs said he is taking on the man credited with saving the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics is Romney’s penchant for political fratricide, such as his attacks on Trump and his undermining of his senior Republican colleague Sen. Mike Lee.

In both of Trump’s impeachment trials, Romney betrayed Utah Republicans when he voted to convict the president. Then, most recently, in a July 24 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, “Opinion: Donors, Don’t Fund a Trump Plurality,” the son of the late George Romney, begged the Republican donor class to convalesce around only those primary challengers with a real shot of beating Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

“It seems like the only thing I’ve ever seen him get passionate about and fight hard for is to fight against Donald Trump,” the mayor said.


The Romney op-ed is consistent with the senator’s March 3, 2016, speech, two days after Trump won 8 of 11 primary contests at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute. There, the son of a Michigan governor called Trump a conman:

Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.

His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.

Ironically, Romney, in the speech, invoked Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech supporting the flagging presidential campaign of Sen. Barry Goldwater (R.-Az.). In the 1964 campaign, Romney’s father took the time to choose not to endorse Goldwater.

Staggs said Romney’s refusing to support Lee in the 2022 midterm was just more of the same.

It weighed in considerably, I mean, just the pettiness that he showed there and not a willingness at all to endorse Mike Lee.

Mike Lee has just been a phenomenal Senator for us and somebody that I’ve got a relationship with. I speak, I think, very highly of Senator Lee, and for Romney not to do that—I think it was also Romney has almost contempt, visible contempt for the Republicans in Utah.


The mayor said the Utah Republican Party changed the nomination process in 2014 to remove the process Lee used in 2010 to unseat Sen. Bob Bennett at the state party’s convention.

The new system allows Romney to skip the convention, he said. “It was a RINO Protection Act.”

Regardless of how he has to beat Romney, Staggs said he is moving forward.

We’ve been doing fundraising. I think we’ve now received donations from individuals across 45, 46 states, which is just really humbling. It demonstrates that not just Utahns, but other conservatives across the country want Romney retired—and we’re working every day to see that that happens.


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