Delegates voice their disapproval during the Utah Republican 2018 nominating convention Saturday. Mitt Romney faced nearly a dozen GOP contenders. He was forced into a primary race with state Rep. Mike Kennedy after Kennedy received 51 percent of the vote and Romney 49 percent. / George Frey/AP
By Doreen McCallister / 04.22.2018
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been forced into a primary race after losing Saturday’s nomination battle at the state’s GOP convention in West Valley City, Utah.
Romney, who’s looking to restart his political career, is running to replace Sen. Orrin Hatch in November.
Nicole Nixon of member station KUER reports for our Newscast unit that Romney had a hard time winning support from Utah’s more conservative delegates.
“Even with his name recognition and campaign war chest, Romney couldn’t get the 60 percent of the vote he needed to avoid a primary. At the Utah GOP Convention, Romney split the vote with conservative state Rep. Mike Kennedy, who acknowledged that after a long day at convention, the room was getting tired.
“But you know what I’m really tired of,” Kennedy asked the crowd. “I’m tired of business as usual in Washington, D.C.”
Romney said he had expected the race to go to a primary, and said that his relationships and reputation would allow him to hit the ground running in the U.S. Senate.
“Everybody can talk a good game,” Romney said. “We’re all for the same policies, but who can actually get the job done? And I hope to be able to get the job done for the people of Utah.”
Mitt Romney leaves the state elections office after declaring his candidacy for the U.S. Senate last month at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City / Rick Bowmer/AP
If Romney had won the party delegate vote at the convention, there would be no need for a primary. Kennedy captured 51 percent of the vote. Romney, who was endorsed by Hatch and President Trump, received 49 percent.
The Republican primary is June 26, and as The Associated Press reports:
“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.”
During the 2016 presidential race, Romney called Trump a “con-man” and a phony. Trump responded, saying Romney had “choked like a dog” when he ran for president in 2012. Since then, Trump and Romney appear to have patched up their relationship.
Democrats in Utah will pick their nominee for the U.S. Senate seat next weekend.