Utah Republican announces bid to replace Romney after saying he would not enter race amid unfinished work

A Utah House member has announced his decision to enter the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, three months after he told residents in the state that he had “decided to stay out of the U.S. Senate race” to focus on unfinished business for his constituents.

Utah Rep. John Curtis, a Republican who previously sought election to the state Senate as a Democrat in 2000, announced his campaign to a local TV station Tuesday.

Curtis, who has represented Utah’s Third District in the House since 2017, told KSL-TV that he believes he can take the work he’s doing in the House and continue to build on it with a bigger platform in the Senate.

“I think part of my ‘aha’ moment was I can do all of those and actually have a bigger platform and accomplish more,” said Curtis, the former mayor of Provo, Utah, who also served as a county-level Democratic Party official at one time.

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The decision from Curtis, who had considered entering the race in September, came after the lawmaker said in an October op-ed that he had decided against making a run for the Senate, citing his “commitment to the residents of the 3rd District.”

“We’ve accomplished a lot but my work for them is not done. I believe we need elected leaders who are more concerned about doing their job than getting the next job. To walk away now would leave a commitment unfilled. I want to finish the job,” he said at the time.

On Tuesday, however, Curtis had a change of heart and said people had asked him to reconsider his decision not to run.

“The second I made the announcement that I was not going to run, I started to have people reach out to me asking me to reconsider,” Curtis told the TV station. “The very people who [I] had made that commitment to were a lot of those voices who said, you can actually serve us better in the Senate than you can in the House. And so without that, I don’t think I could have changed my mind.”

“I actually carry my seniority with me from the House to the Senate, so I won’t start as number 100. I think that’s very important for the state,” he added. “I also bring that experience of how to pass legislation. … I bring that, and then I also bring a Utah focus. People know that I’m not the guy who wakes up and tries to get on TV at night. I wake up and say, ‘What can I do for the district?’ And I think people have really appreciated that.”

In a statement to Fox News Digital, a spokesperson for Curtis’ campaign said that the lawmaker “cares deeply about the future of Utah which is why he is running for the U.S. Senate.”

“After many Utahns from across the state reached out and urged him to run, John decided it was the right thing to do,” the spokesperson added. “He has a proven conservative track record of getting things done for Utahns and will continue to work hard every day to help make the state an even better place.”

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Curtis’ decision comes after Romney announced in September he would not be seeking reelection to the upper chamber in 2024. In announcing his decision, Romney declared he’s not “retiring from the fight,” and he bashed both President Biden and former President Donald Trump while calling for “a new generation of leaders.”

Curtis now joins a growing field of Republicans seeking to replace Romney.

Former Utah state House Speaker Brad Wilson, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, Roosevelt Mayor Rod Bird Jr., former GOP Sen. Mike Lee’s staffer Carolyn Phippen, and a handful of others announced their campaigns for the open Senate seat last year. Brent Orrin Hatch – one of six children of the late Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch – also announced his candidacy Tuesday.

Curtis told the Salt Lake Tribune that his decision to join the crowded field of candidates came after he had “personal conversations” with a handful of U.S. senators who also encouraged him to enter the race.

Citing “multiple sources,” the Tribune reported that “Romney was one of those senators who lobbied him to join the race.”

Asked about the Tribune’s report, Liz Johnson, Romney’s chief of staff, told Fox News Digital that the senator is “staying out of the race.”

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“Utah is fortunate to have several candidates who are interested in serving in the Senate, and Senator Romney appreciates their willingness to serve. He is staying out of the race,” she said.

Curtis’ campaign did not specifically say whether Curtis had received support from Romney, but told Fox News Digital that the “congressman has received encouragement from many elected officials.”

“Most of those would like to stay personal and private,” the campaign spokesperson added.

Republicans carry a substantial advantage in Utah, outnumbering Democrats by a more than 3-to-1 margin.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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