The race for Mitt Romney’s U.S. Senate seat is on.
The first Utahn to officially enter the competition announced his candidacy in a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday morning, focusing on criticizing the first-term senator and former presidential candidate.
Republican Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who unsuccessfully ran for Salt Lake County mayor in 2020, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Monday. Although Romney has said he’s not yet decided whether he’ll run for reelection, the incumbent filed a “statement of candidacy” with the FEC in April.
“I’m not a career politician, or a Massachusetts millionaire,” Staggs said in the video, taking a swipe at Romney. “I’m a mayor, a businessman, husband and father who wants his children to grow up with the same opportunities that I did. And I’m running for United States Senate to make sure that they do.”
Staggs isn’t the only Republican expected to enter Utah’s 2024 U.S. Senate race. Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson announced in April — one day after Romney submitted his candidacy statement to the FEC — that he is exploring a run for Romney’s seat. Wilson has served in the Legislature since 2010.
In his news release, Wilson also seemingly made jabs at Romney, but didn’t attack him by name like Staggs.
“A few years ago, Mitt Romney moved to Utah and told us what he’d fight for,” Staggs said, before playing a clip of a Romney campaign ad in which he said he’d work to “end illegal immigration, to put us on a path to a balanced budget, to push back against federal overreach and to confirm judges who follow the Constitution.”
“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 as headlines about Romney marching with Black Lives Matter protesters and voting for the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill flashed on the screen.
A spokesperson for Romney said his office didn’t have any comment on the video or Staggs’ candidacy. In 2020, the GOP senator endorsed Staggs’ run against Salt Lake County Democratic Mayor Jenny Wilson.
His principal campaign committee, Trent Staggs for Utah, had not reported any donations to the FEC as of Tuesday morning. That committee shares the same treasurer as one used by Florida governor and presumptive GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, according to campaign documents filed with the state of Florida.
As mayor, when Salt Lake County issued an order limiting gatherings to 10 people at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, he urged the city’s police officers not to enforce the rule, saying he felt people and businesses would “make appropriate precautionary measures including ceasing operations if it is the correct decision for them.”
Similar to his criticism of the federal omnibus bill, Staggs, in his 2020 Salt Lake County mayoral campaign, said the county’s spending was “wasteful.” One of his first orders of business, he said, was to cut staff in the mayor’s office.
And early this year, Staggs declared April 12 as Enes Kanter Freedom Day, saying the former NBA player’s — who has been an outspoken critic of the Turkish and Chinese governments and the politics of the league — values align with Riverton’s.
“We have so many social justice warriors out there today, and I think that several players are all too eager to criticize injustices or perceived injustices in our country from 150-plus years ago, but they won’t take a stand for actual slavery that’s going on in China with organ harvesting, with all types of human rights atrocities, and that’s a shame,” Staggs said while presenting an award to Freedom.