• Fearing a Utah 'coronation', 11 Republicans challenge Romney

    By: MICHELLE L. PRICE, Associated Press

    Updated:
    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Eleven Republicans stepped forward before a Thursday evening filing deadline to challenge former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the Utah Senate race, including a state lawmaker who says an "establishment insider" can't fix problems in Washington.

    Many of the candidates acknowledge the David-vs-Goliath nature of challenging the famous and popular Romney, but they say someone needs to keep the race to replace Republican Orrin Hatch from becoming a "coronation."

    "I think he's just expecting to run away with this thing," Republican candidate Sam Parker said. "There are really motivated individuals who are going to do their best to force their way into the conversation."

    Romney, who filed papers on Thursday to officially become a candidate, is pushing back against the criticism, saying he's working to earn every vote and emphasizing his ties to Utah, where he's made his home after losing the 2012 presidential election

    "Almost wherever I go throughout the country, people just assume I'm from Utah," Romney told reporters at the state Capitol after filing his paperwork.

    He's known in the state for reviving the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics after a bribery scandal and later becoming the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major political party. About 60 percent of Utah's residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is based in Salt Lake City.

    Though personally wealthy, Romney said he doesn't plan to use his personal money for his campaign, which he's portrayed as a modest, local operation. He's relying on volunteers to gather voter signatures to get on the ballot, instead of relying on professional, paid workers, like many candidates do. He's made a point to travel to 20 of Utah's 29 counties in recent weeks in a pickup truck, which he sometimes drives himself.

    Many of those who have stepped up to challenge Romney have revived attacks he faced in his presidential campaigns, including criticism for his shifting stance on abortion and his signing of a health care law as Massachusetts governor that was used as a blueprint for President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

    Parker, a banker, said he decided to jump in because he felt Romney wouldn't be a strong, conservative ally for President Donald Trump, who has clashed over the years with Romney.

    "I don't agree with a lot of his politics, as much as you can nail down his politics because they seem to change to fit whatever opportunity he's going after," Parker said of his opponent.

    Most in the crowded primary are political unknowns, save for state Rep. Mike Kennedy, a Republican from Alpine.

    Kennedy, a doctor and a lawyer who has served in the Legislature since 2013, jumped in the race Wednesday and released an online campaign video, where he asked: "Do you honestly think an establishment insider is going to fix the problems in Washington and restore our values?"

    Kennedy, who recently helped launch a task force in the state to find ways to prevent school shootings, did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.

    Other Republican candidates include Jeremy Friedbaum and Stoney Fonua, who have both unsuccessfully run for a number of offices over the years, along with engineer Tim Jimenez, attorney Layer Meyers, and Alicia Colvin, who works at a medical device company and describes herself as more of a moderate.

    Candidates on the Democratic side include Salt Lake County Council member Jenny Wilson, Mitchell Vice, Jeff Dransfield and Larry Livingston.

    Romney and some of the GOP challengers will face off in an April 21 Republican Party convention, where they'll try to win votes of several thousand party delegates elected by their neighbors. The winner of the convention, which typically favors more conservative candidates, will face off in a June 26 primary election against any candidates who gather 28,000 voter signatures to earn a place on the ballot, something Romney is doing.

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