Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

He’s running: Rep. John Curtis changes his mind on the race for Romney’s Senate seat

U.S. Rep. John Curtis, of Utah, attends an event at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Joshua A. Bickel
U.S. Rep. John Curtis, of Utah, attends an event at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Republican Rep. John Curtis is officially running to be Utah’s next senator. The Jan. 2 declaration comes after Sen. Mitt Romney announced in September he would not be seeking a second term.

I still feel like I have all my strength and my energy,” Curtis said. “So from that perspective, I think it's a good time.”

Initially one of the first names floated as a potential Romney successor, Curtis, back in October, decided to remain in the House.

“The second that I made that announcement, people started reaching out and asked, ‘What would it take to get you to reconsider and would you reconsider that decision?’” he said. “So I started to gradually say, ‘Well, what if? Can I change my mind? Is it possible and is it right to change my mind?’ And over a longer period of time now, in evaluating it, I really felt like it was the right thing for me to do.”

Surprised at first by Romney’s announcement, Curtis’ original decision to forgo a Senate campaign boiled down to a desire to follow through on commitments made to his constituents in the 3rd District and that he “didn't have aspirations for the Senate, and felt like the answer was no.”

About a month later, he was reported to be reconsidering his decision. A poll released in December showed him with a wide lead over other candidates in the race.

Curtis is admittedly late to the game as several other candidates have had weeks, or in some cases months, to fundraise and gather endorsements.

“It just means I'll need to work that much harder,” he said. “And I also have this full-time gig in Washington, which means I'm not in the district as much as I would like. But I think people will see how I've been able to prioritize moving around the state in my current district, even though my time is very limited. And I think that'll actually be a good example to them of how well I’ll serve once elected.”

Curtis does have one advantage over the rest of the GOP hopefuls: experience in Washington D.C.

I have had six years to build relationships,” he said. “Things happen in Washington based on relationships far more than anything else. And I also bring a trained staff. And I think clearly some of them would come with me, so we’d hit the ground running.”

That experience includes work on issues like public land, small business regulation and cybersecurity. Curtis has also made a name for himself as the founder of the Conservative Climate Caucus and has attempted to buck the stereotype of Republicans not caring about climate issues.

“People that know me know I talk about climate and just a Republican that's even willing to say the word ‘climate’ stands out,” he said. “There's now a third of all House Republicans who are part of this [caucus] and they're willing to talk about climate and lean in with Republican solutions, which was not happening before. We were really good at telling people what we didn't like, and now we're telling them actually what we like and we're changing the dialog.”

While widely seen as a more moderate Republican — not unlike the outgoing Romney — Curtis insists that if elected to the Senate, he will be consistent with what his CD3 constituents have grown accustomed to.

“I think people have seen me in action for six years, they know exactly who I am, what issues are important to me,” he said. “I represent everything from a more moderate Moab, Park City, Deer Valley area to a very conservative San Juan County and I think I've learned how to represent all of them, and I think that's what will come out during the primary.”

A former mayor of Provo from 2010-2017, Curtis came to Congress after winning a special election in 2017 to fill the vacancy in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District after former Rep. Jason Chaffetz resigned. He was reelected in 2018, 2020 and 2022.

A graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in business, Curtis serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as the House Natural Resources Committee.

After facing primary challenges in each of his reelection bids, Curtis will gather signatures in order to appear on the primary ballot but said he will also participate in the Utah GOP nominating convention in April.

“I will not be overlooking the convention,” he said. “Working to earn those delegate votes will also be very important to me.”

The GOP Senate field is already crowded with former Utah Speaker of the House Brad Wilson, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, Roosevelt Mayor Rod Bird, political consultant Carolyn Phippen, Brent Hatch, Tyrone Jensen, Gabriel Lobo-Blanco and Josh Randall already declaring their candidacies.

Other candidates have until Jan. 8 to file with the Lt. Governor’s Office. The Utah GOP nominating convention is April 27, and the party’s primary is scheduled for June 25.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.