Mitt Romney again faces a Kennedy in a U.S. Senate race

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Mike Kennedy talks about the new Utah School Safety Commission during a news conference at the Utah State Capitol, Thursday, March 1, 2018.

The last time Mitt Romney ran against a Kennedy for the U.S. Senate, he lost a bitter 1994 campaign in Massachusetts against liberal icon Ted Kennedy. Now, he is facing a Kennedy in Utah, but this one is a conservative Republican and not a member of that famous clan.

Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, announced Wednesday that he will challenge Romney for the GOP nomination for the seat being vacated by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

That race is crowded, with six other Republicans, three Democrats, one Constitution Party candidate and one from the Independent American Party filing as of Wednesday evening. The filing deadline is Thursday at 5 p.m., so more may join.

As a state legislator, Kennedy has a higher profile than other Republicans now running — except, of course, Romney, the former GOP presidential nominee and Massachusetts governor.

Kennedy — who is a medical doctor and an attorney — said, “I’d love to use those skills to take Utah to Washington, D.C., and not Washington to Utah. I feel like real Utah values are the medicine that Washington needs, and I’m ready to write the prescription.”

He added, “I’m running for the seat, not against anybody else. There’s a great slate of candidates, and everyone knows who the front-runner is.”

Kennedy announced his candidacy with a video that explains some of his reasons for running.

“Do you honestly think an establishment insider is going to fix the problems in Washington and restore our values? If you do, then I’m probably not your guy,” he says.

“But if you’re for someone who understands what it’s like to be an everyday American, working hard to balance a budget and raise a family in Utah, then my name’s Dr. Mike Kennedy, and I’d sure appreciate your vote.”

Kennedy says, “Washington needs leaders who understand what it’s like to balance a budget, run a small business and play by the rules. We need leaders we can trust to remember us when they vote, not just when we do.”

He stresses that he raised his family in the state — without directly mentioning that Romney moved here in 2014.

He concludes — as music swells — “It’s time real Utahns reminded Washington of our values.”

Kennedy, vice chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, has served in the Utah House for six years.

This year, he led House efforts after the recent Florida school shooting to create a commission to look at ways to improve school safety and possibly change gun laws in coming months.

He passed both of his two bills this year. One was a resolution to allow the Utah Developmental Center to sell land. Another is to ask that driver education classes include information about how to improve air quality and provide information about the harmful effects of vehicle emissions.

When Romney lost to Ted Kennedy, a Democrat, in 1994, it attracted national attention as Kennedy ran ads accusing Romney of treating workers unfairly and eliminating jobs when he led Bain Capital.

Romney’s other Republican challengers include Samuel Parker, Tim Jimenez, Stoney Fonua, Jeremy Lewis Friedbaum, Alicia Colvin and Larry Meyers. Romney hasn’t filed as a candidate. He is expected to do so Thursday.