Former presidential nominee Mitt Romney is one step closer to the Senate after trouncing his Republican primary opponent Mike Kennedy Tuesday night.
Early results showed Romney leading conservative state lawmaker Mike Kennedy by 46 percentage points Tuesday night. The two were vying for the Republican nomination for the seat currently held by retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. In a victory speech, Romney thanked Hatch for his years of service.
“He’s fought conservative battles time and time again,” Romney said. “We’re going to
miss him. I’m going to do my best to keep those battles and those fights going forward.”
Kennedy was campaigning as the more pro-Trump Republican in the Senate race. He conceded the race to Romney after results showed him trailing 27 percent to Romney’s 73 percent.
Romney is balancing his past criticisms of President Donald Trump with drummed-up support of the GOP’s policy agenda on the campaign trail, but he avoided any mention of Trump in his speech Tuesday night.
Romney moves on to face Democrat Jenny Wilson on the November ballot. The former GOP presidential nominee said he looks forward to debating her in the coming months.
“I wish her well,” he said. “But we expect that Republicans are going to go to Washington again from Utah to represent our great state.”
Wilson, who serves on the Salt Lake County Council, said she will continue to campaign aroung the state until November.
“This Senate seat belongs to the people of Utah and for the first time in over 40 years, Utahns will be electing someone new to serve them,” Wilson said in a statement Tuesday night. “I congratulate Mitt Romney and look forward to an issue-based debate going forward.”
A handful of state and local officials appeared at Romney’s campaign event to support him, including Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.
“What I admire most about Mitt is he has his priorities straight,” said Cox. “He loves his family, he loves his faith, he loves his country. Mitt is exactly who we need from Utah right now, not just to represent Utah, but to represent the United States of America.”