The Race to Replace Republican Romney is On.

The Race to Replace Republican Romney is On.

The battle to become Utah's next U.S. Senator is now wide open, and we expect there to be at least seven serious candidates.

That said, look for this to be the most expensive election in Utah history. In fact, expect  total spending in the race to exceed $50 million.

Early yesterday morning, the junior U.S. Senator from Utah, Mitt Romney (R), announced via video that he would not seek a third term.

U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (UT-R) announces he will not seek a third term in office during the 2024 general election. Video downloaded 13 September 2023 from Senator Romney's YouTube account.

If re-elected, Romney would turn 84 in 2031, the last year of his six-year-term.

To his credit, Romney said in his statement:

"At the end of another term, I’d be in my mid-eighties. Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders. They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in."

And so, the race to replace Romney has now officially begun.

The Most Likely, High-Profile Candidates to Replace Senator Romney

To be clear, at least one individual (Trent Staggs, the current Mayor of Riverton) already has a campaign underway to replace Senator Romney, an effort Staggs began on 23 May 2023.

But Staggs is clearly not the only individual that will throw their respective hat in the ring to take Senator Romney's slot.

Probable Republican Candidates

Based upon my own research, coupled with some off-the-record comments from a few well-placed and politically connected "experts," here are the Top 4 Republicans I believe are the most likely to pursue Romney's position in the U.S. Senate. {NOTE: These individuals are listed in alphabetical order based upon last name.}

  • Jason Chaffetz (author, Fox News contributor, and former U.S. Representative);
  • Trent Staggs (as noted above, the current Mayor of Riverton City);
  • Brad Wilson (a real estate developer and Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives); and
  • Thomas Wright (a real estate broker, former chairman of the Republican Party in Utah, and a former candidate for Governor of Utah).

A race between any two of the above (or more) would be fascinating to watch, and would likely lead to crazy, behind-the-scenes machinations leading up to the state Republican convention next summer, let alone a likely fall primary.

{NOTE: In spite of a lot of speculation to the contrary, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced yesterday that he is not going to run for the open Senate slot, but instead is going to run for re-election as A.G. next year.}

Probable Democrat Candidates

On the Democrat side of the equation, I feel there are only two possible candidates with a legitimate chance of snagging the victory in 2024 in a contest that rarely leans to the left, and those are

Conversely,  unless there is a drawn-out, multi-ballot vote in the Democrat state convention, I think that the Democrat nominee who makes it out of convention will not face a primary challenger in the fall.

The Possible Wildcard Candidate

Given his role as an Independent candidate in 2022 to replace U.S. Senator Mike Lee, I will not be surprised if Evan McMullin also enters the race to replace Senator Romney. {NOTE: McMullin garnered 42.8% of the vote against Lee's 53.2%.}

McMullin is currently a Principal with Enlightenment Capital, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that invests in the Aerospace, Defense, Government, and Technology industries.

Taken in concert, that would then be an initial field of seven candidates:

  1. Jason Chaffetz (R);
  2. Erin Mendenhall (D);
  3. Evan McMullin (I);
  4. Trent Staggs (R);
  5. Brad Wilson (R);
  6. Jenny Wilson (D);
  7. Thomas Wright (R) ...

although I would not be surprised to see McMullin delay entering the race until after the Democrat and Republican conventions next year.

The Most Expensive Political Race in Utah History is Coming

So ... why do I believe

As of today, the U.S. Senate has

  1. 49 Republicans;
  2. 48 Democrats; and
  3. 3 Independents (with all three independents committed to caucusing with the Democrats)

According to Ballotpedia, of the 100 Senate seats, 33 seats are up for election in 2024, with

  • 20 Democrat seats are up for election in 2024;
  • 10 Republican seats; and
  • All 3 Independent seats.

Given the potential of swinging control of the Senate to the Republican Party, expect many of the Senatorial campaigns to be hotly contested across the country, but with all to being very expensive.

How expensive?

Well, in the 2022 general election, reports that the 10 most expensive U.S. Senate races spent over $1.14 billion combined.

The 10 most expensive U.S. Senate races in 2022 spent over $1.14 billion combined.

In contrast, shows that the 2022 Lee/McMullin tilt saw an astounding $38.6 million spent by all parties in support of (or opposed to) the two main candidates (astounding, at least, by Utah standards).

Specifically, in the Lee/McMullin race, spending by all parties in support of (or opposed to) the two main candidates breaks down as follows —

Mike Lee spending:

  • $11.688 million was spent by Senator Lee;
  • $6.179 million was spent by outside parties in support of Senator Lee; and
  • $7.861 million spent by outside parties opposed to Evan McMillin; for
  • A total of ~$25.7 million in support of Senator Lee; and conversely,

Evan McMullin spending:

  • $7.771 million was spent by Candidate McMullin;
  • $805,000 was spent by outside parties in support of Candidate McMullin; and
  • $4.601 million was spent by outside parties opposed to Senator Lee; for
  • A total of ~$12.9 million in support of Candidate McMullin.

So ... what can we expect spending-wise between now and Tuesday, 5 November 2024?

My best guess is that we will see well over $50 million spent in Utah just on the election to replace Senator Mitt Romney.

Look for well over $50 million to be spent on the 2024 election to replace Senator Mitt Romney.

So hang onto your hats and your wallets, Utahns.

It's about to get crazy here in the State of Deseret.