Romney must compete in primary for Senate seat

U. S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney delivers his speech to the delegates at the Utah Republican Nominating Convention Saturday, April 21, 2018, at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
U. S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney delivers his speech to the delegates at the Utah Republican Nominating Convention Saturday, April 21, 2018, at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (AP) — Mitt Romney was forced Saturday into a Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Utah as he looks to restart his political career by replacing long-serving Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Romney remains the heavy favorite overall to win the Senate seat in November. But if he had won the votes of a majority of the far-right leaning party delegates at the state GOP convention Saturday, he would have bypassed a primary altogether.

Instead, he was edged out by state lawmaker Mike Kennedy, who got 51 percent of the vote to Romney's 49 percent.

Voters will decide between the two in a June 26 primary. Romney previously secured his spot on the ballot by gathering signatures.

Romney went up against 11 other candidates at the convention, mostly political newcomers who questioned Romney's criticism of President Donald Trump and the depth of his ties to Utah.

Kennedy, a doctor and lawyer, got big applause from the crowd as he railed against the national debt, Common Core education standards and former President Barack Obama's health care law.

Romney, 71, asked for delegates' votes after spending two months on the campaign trail visiting dairy farms, taking selfies with college students and making stump speeches in small towns.

After his failed 2012 presidential campaign, he moved to Utah, where he is also known for his role in the 2002 Winter Olympics and for becoming the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major political party.

He's worked to keep the focus on state issues rather than his history of well-documented feuds with Trump, whom he called a "con-man" and a phony during the 2016 race. Trump fired back that Romney "choked like a dog" during his own White House run.

But the two men have shown signs of making peace, and Romney has accepted Trump's endorsement.

 

In this Friday, March 2, 2018, photo, Mitt Romney poses with a group at the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife Banquet during a campaign stop in Blanding, Utah. Romney is gearing up for arguably the biggest challenge of his Senate campaign: A Utah Republican party convention where he'll have to face down nearly a dozen contenders in front of a far-right-leaning audience. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
In this Friday, March 2, 2018, photo, Mitt Romney poses with a group at the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife Banquet during a campaign stop in Blanding, Utah. Romney is gearing up for arguably the biggest challenge of his Senate campaign: A Utah Republican party convention where he'll have to face down nearly a dozen contenders in front of a far-right-leaning audience. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
In this March 1, 2018, file photo, shows Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, speaking during news conference at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. Romney is gearing up for arguably the biggest challenge of his Senate campaign: A Utah Republican party convention where he'll have to face down nearly a dozen contenders in front of a far-right-leaning audience. Others in the crowded field include Kennedy, who has served in the Legislature since 2013. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
In this March 1, 2018, file photo, shows Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, speaking during news conference at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. Romney is gearing up for arguably the biggest challenge of his Senate campaign: A Utah Republican party convention where he'll have to face down nearly a dozen contenders in front of a far-right-leaning audience. Others in the crowded field include Kennedy, who has served in the Legislature since 2013. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
People walk to the Maverick Center to attend the Utah Republican 2018 nominating convention Saturday, April 21, 2018, in West Valley City, Utah. Mitt Romney is facing nearly a dozen Republican contenders in Utah on Saturday as he works to secure the state GOP nomination for a Senate seat without a primary. (AP Photo/George Frey)
People walk to the Maverick Center to attend the Utah Republican 2018 nominating convention Saturday, April 21, 2018, in West Valley City, Utah. Mitt Romney is facing nearly a dozen Republican contenders in Utah on Saturday as he works to secure the state GOP nomination for a Senate seat without a primary. (AP Photo/George Frey)

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