Romney Must Compete in Utah Primary 04/22 10:04
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (AP) -- Mitt Romney was forced into a Republican
primary in his bid for U.S. Senate in Utah after losing a nomination battle
Saturday at the state's far-right-leaning GOP convention.
Romney remains the heavy favorite overall to replace long-serving Sen. Orrin
Hatch in November and said he was ready to keep campaigning hard.
If he had won the party delegate vote at the convention, he would have
bypassed a primary altogether. Instead, he was edged out by state lawmaker Mike
Kennedy, who got 51 percent of the vote to Romney's 49 percent.
GOP voters will decide between the two in a June 26 primary.
Romney previously secured his spot on the primary ballot by gathering 28,000
voter signatures but said Saturday that choice was partly to blame for his loss.
Gathering signatures to make the ballot is unpopular among many conservative
delegates in the state who say it dilutes their ability to choose a candidate.
The issue prompted hours of debate, shouting and booing at the convention.
Romney, 71, went up against 11 other candidates at the convention, including
one dressed as Abraham Lincoln, complete with vest and bow tie. Some candidates
questioned Romney's past criticism of President Donald Trump.
Romney pushed back against critics who said he's an interloper in Utah
politics by referring to his role in staging the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.
"Some people I've spoken with have said this is a David vs. Goliath race,
but they're wrong," Romney said in his speech. "I'm not Goliath. Washington,
D.C., is Goliath."
Kennedy, a doctor and lawyer, framed himself as an underdog taking on the
"Romney machine." At one point, he pitched in to sweep up tiny paper American
flags that had been shot from a confetti cannon hours before.
Delegate Matt Murdoch, 28, said he voted for Kennedy because he's a family
doctor serving many of his neighbors in Alpine, south of Salt Lake City.
Stay-at-home mother Michelle Cluff said she liked Romney's experience and
believes he is ready to get to work as a senator.
Romney was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. While in office he
signed legislation that greatly expanded access to health care through
state-level subsidies and individual mandates to purchase insurance, much like
Romney asked for delegates' votes after spending two months on the campaign
trail visiting dairy farms, taking selfies with college students and making
stump speeches in small towns.
After his failed 2012 presidential campaign, he moved to Utah, where he
gained popularity after running as the first Mormon presidential nominee of a
major political party.
He's worked to keep the focus on state issues rather than his history of
well-documented feuds with Trump, whom he called a "con-man" and a phony during
the 2016 race. Trump fired back that Romney "choked like a dog" during his own
White House run.
The two men have shown signs of making peace, and Romney has accepted
Trump's endorsement for Senate. But Romney said Saturday he hasn't decided
whether he'll endorse the president's 2020 re-election bid.