FIRST ON FOX: A Utah mayor has announced he will seek the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Mitt Romney in the state’s 2024 Senate election, becoming the first candidate to pose a challenge to the Republican senator should he attempt to seek re-election.
Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs – a Republican who gained notoriety in 2020 for his opposition to mask mandates amid the coronavirus pandemic – said he is looking to protect the country that his children will some day inherit.
“I love my children, and I’m worried about the country they will inherit if I sit on the sidelines,” Staggs told Fox News Digital. “For too long, we’ve allowed government bureaucrats to spend away the next generation’s future, and we need more voices willing to push back.”
Romney filed FEC paperwork last month in a possible first step toward running for re-election, but his chief of staff told local media that he has not made a final decision.
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When asked why he believes Romney may not be an effective leader for the state, Staggs said, “Unfortunately, Mitt Romney has let personal beefs get in the way of good governance. From not standing with Mike Lee against raising the debt ceiling to voting for the $1.7 trillion omnibus, he has helped drive us deeper in debt.”
“He votes to impeach President Trump but then has the nerve to confirm a radical justice like Ketanji Brown Jackson and incompetent cabinet members like open border [DHS Sec. Alejandro] Mayorkas,” Staggs added.
In announcing his candidacy in the race, Staggs became the first person to publicly pose a challenge to Romney, who has angered many voters within his own party for his reasoning and support for certain policies and bills.
“Mitt Romney fits in the Senate much better than I do. We’ve elected far too many people who ‘fit in’ in Washington. I’m not going to Washington to make friends, I’m going to make change,” Staggs declared.
In his first campaign video, released Tuesday, Staggs touted his candidacy in the Senate race and insisted “Washington is broken.”
“We have more IRS agents than border agents, and while we’re paying $4 a gallon for gas, they’re sending our money unchecked to Ukraine,” Staggs said in the ad. “Now we’re almost $32 trillion in debt. Enough is enough.”
“A few years ago, Mitt Romney moved to Utah and told us what he would fight for,” said Staggs, whose message was accompanied in the ad by flashbacks of Romney’s promises before he was elected to the Senate.
Those promises, as outlined in the ad, included an “end to illegal immigration,” a “path to a balanced budget,” efforts to “push back against federal overreach,” and the confirmation of “judges who follow the constitution.”
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“But the only thing I’ve seen him fight for are the establishment, wokeness, open borders, impeaching President Trump, and putting us even deeper into debt,” Staggs said.
In June 2020, Staggs, then a candidate for Salt Lake County mayor, made headlines after he declared local police would not enforce a mask mandate in the county amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
“I will direct, along with our city manager, our police department to spend their resources in other areas that are really going to protect our public health,” Staggs told Salt Lake City’s KUTV 2News at the time.
When asked about his opposition to mask mandates, Staggs told Fox, “I do not believe it is the place of government to dictate our daily lives.”
“In 2020, throughout America, we had kids forced home from school, parents forced home from work, and families forced home from church,” he continued. “Not in my town. I believe people will always make better decisions for their own lives than the government ever could.”
Other Republicans are also weighing a potential challenge to Romney, including Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, who announced in April that he was launching an exploratory committee to consider running for Senate.
“I’ve really loved the opportunity that we’ve had to keep government small and out of people’s lives, it’s part of why Utah is so special,” Wilson said of his time in public office.
He continued, “I really believe that what Washington needs is to be a lot more like Utah. We’ve got this amazing opportunity to send Utah values back to D.C., and to have a conservative fighter back there, doing things back there the way we do them here in the Beehive State.”
Wilson did not address whether he has talked to Romney, who has served in the Senate since 2019, about his possible challenge.
Romney has gone on the record saying that if he runs, he has no doubt he would be successfully re-elected. He defeated Democrat Jenny Wilson with more than 62% of the vote in 2018.
“I’m convinced that if I run, I win. But that’s a decision I’ll make,” Romney said of a potential re-election bid.
Romney was the GOP nominee in the 2012 presidential election and was defeated by former President Obama.
Fox News’ Timothy H.J. Nerozzi and Aubrie Spady contributed to this report.
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