Lots At Stake In Utah: Who Will Lead In The Post-Romney Era?

By Lisa Pelgin | Monday, 24 June 2024 08:30 AM
4
Views 2.6K

In the picturesque city of Orem, Utah, Trent Staggs, a local politician, enthusiastically waved a "Utah for Trump" flag while leading a crowd of families in the "YMCA" dance at a recent campaign rally.

This was a clear signal to voters that he has the backing of the former President in his bid to replace retiring U.S. Senator Mitt Romney. According to The Associated Press, Staggs' endorsement from Trump has catapulted him from relative obscurity in his Salt Lake City suburb to victory at the state's Republican convention in April, where delegates lean far-right.

However, Staggs' affiliation with Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" movement may not be sufficient to secure a win in Tuesday's primary, where Utah's more moderate GOP electorate will have their say. The outcome of this election will reveal whether Utah prefers another moderate conservative like Romney, or a candidate more inclined to align with Trump. This decision could have broader implications for Utah's role within the shifting dynamics of the national Republican Party, which has been largely molded by the former president.

 WATCH: AMAZING JAPANESE ANIME OF THE JULY 13TH ATTACKbell_image

Staggs, during the rally at a park just north of Provo, criticized his main competitor, U.S. Rep. John Curtis, saying, “We have somebody in John Curtis who would just be a continuation of Mitt Romney. I don’t want another senator that has a disharmonious relationship with President Trump.”

 WATCH: CRAZY REACTIONS TO THE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT: PART 1bell_image

Curtis, the longest-serving member of the House delegation for Utah, represents a state that has been lukewarm in its embrace of Trump. The former President's brash style and comments about refugees and immigrants have not resonated well with many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which constitutes about half of the state's 3.4 million residents.

 EEK! RFK JR.’S APOLOGY TO TRUMP AFTER LEAKED VACCINE TALK...bell_image

Despite his loss at the convention, Curtis managed to qualify for the primary ballot using a signature-gathering method designed years ago to ensure moderate candidates were not sidelined by the staunch conservatives who regularly attend conventions. Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, believes Curtis is “in a very good position.” The Republican primary winner is highly favored to win in November over Democratic nominee Caroline Gleich in a state that has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970.

 AIR FORCE CAUGHT RED-HANDED: SECRETLY PUSHING BIDEN'S DEI AGENDA DESPITE BAN!bell_image

Even though Trump's influence has grown in the state, his supporters could be divided between Staggs and two other candidates who support Trump's agenda, former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and businessman Jason Walton. Wilson was considered a strong candidate to win at the convention, but his loss there to Staggs has relegated him to a long shot in the primary.

 DID THE LEFT'S HATE FOR TRUMP LEAD TO ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT? READ THIS OPINION!bell_image

Curtis is attempting to establish his own brand of conservatism in the post-Romney era of Utah politics, with a focus on engaging Republicans on issues involving climate change. Staggs has accused Curtis of being “a Democrat posing as a Republican.” However, Curtis, with a voting record that aligns almost perfectly with Trump’s policy positions, insists he is more conservative than people realize.

 TRUMP RESPONDS TO BIDEN'S RADICAL SUPREME COURT SHAKE-UPbell_image

The 64-year-old congressman has taken a unique approach to campaigning, hosting a series of hikes with constituents to discuss environmental issues and to get to know them while out in nature. As the founder of the Conservative Climate Caucus on Capitol Hill, he has dedicated himself to educating fellow Republicans about the consequences of climate change, pushing back against party leaders such as Trump who have falsely claimed it is a hoax and downplayed the effects of warming temperatures caused by fossil fuel emissions. The caucus takes a market-based approach to climate issues, countering Democratic policies with proposals that Curtis says aim to lower emissions without compromising American jobs and economic principles.

 EXPOSED: BANNON’S ROLE IN EPSTEIN’S FINAL DAYS AND THE MISSING DOCUMENTARYbell_image

In a state where outdoor recreation is central to thousands of lives and where water access and air quality matter to many, Curtis sees the environment as a winning issue. He has received broad support in past elections even from the parts of his district that house the state’s coal, oil and gas hubs. He has tried to strike a balance, prioritizing preservation of those industries by praising a plan to extend the operational lives of major coal powered plants in his district and urging lawmakers to not to rule out fossil fuels as part of an affordable clean energy future. The United States, he argues, can achieve its emission reduction goals while still using some natural gas, which emits less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels when combusted.

 BREAKING NEWS: OBAMA THROWS BIDEN UNDER THE BUS! IS HE DONE?bell_image

Curtis, in an interview, said, “I think the reason that they’re so supportive of me — and I still talk climate — is that I’m the first person that’s ever really articulated that they’re a part of the solution, not the problem.”

For Sara Moore, a 34-year-old snowboarding instructor who identifies as an independent but registered Republican to vote in the primaries, Curtis’ emphasis on climate change and the jobs tied to energy production strikes a “refreshing” balance. She said, “I’m a seasonal worker. We need a climate that can sustain snow. But I also recognize how our state’s economy and so many livelihoods are dependent on the oil and gas industries.”

Staggs, the 50-year-old mayor of Riverton, a suburb south of Salt Lake City, has promoted his endorsement by the Oil & Gas Workers Association and he told The Associated Press he would prioritize energy dominance over reducing emissions. Staggs was the first to enter the race, even before Romney announced he was not seeking reelection.

Staggs supporter Sally Hemingway, 68, of Riverton, said he has been a caring, accessible and productive mayor. She admires that he was the first to challenge Romney. She said, “It may be a long shot — I think he knows it — but his campaign has always been about upsetting the status quo since he stepped up to challenge Mitt Romney. And I think he’s done that.”

Jacob Mathews, 25, a student and construction worker, and his wife, Maya Mathews, 24, a substitute teacher, were undecided but said they will ultimately vote for the candidate who seems most approachable, supports working families like their own and values the U.S. Constitution. Whether a candidate is backed by Trump “doesn’t really matter to us,” the couple agreed. They left the community park in Orem after hearing from Staggs and other convention picks who sang in celebration of Trump’s birthday, wishing the candidates had spoken more about their policy goals and less about the former President.

X