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The race to replace Mitt Romney is on

The race to replace Mitt Romney is on

If Mitt Romney ran, he would not have faced a clear path to reelection. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

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2 min

There will be an opening for the Senate in Utah. Expect a mad dash to fill it. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced on Wednesday that he’s not running for a second term, citing a need for “a new generation of leaders.” If Romney ran, he would not have faced a clear path to reelection. The former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential candidate faced heavy scrutiny from members of his own party for being a critic of former President Donald Trump. (Romney made sure to give Trump one more shove in his Wednesday announcement, saying the former president isn’t effectively leading the Republican Party.) Primary challengers had already begun lining up against Romney earlier this year, including state House Speaker Brad Wilson and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs. Wilson had formed an exploratory committee for the seat while Romney was deciding on his future, and boasted over the summer of raising over $2.2 million in his first two months. Around half of that came from a personal loan, but demonstrates that he could self-fund to differentiate himself from a likely crowded primary field. (On Wednesday, Wilson said “stay tuned” after Romney’s announcement.) Staggs had a much smaller war chest, bringing in around $220,000 during his first month as a candidate. Other candidates are likely to enter the fray after Romney’s announcement. “Statewide open races in Utah are wild,” said Suzy Matheson, a former delegate for the state GOP. “Anybody who has the slightest bit of name recognition comes out in full force.” The Senate race will be a test for the Utah Republican Party. The activists who make up the state party lean conservative — and were no fans of Romney’s. Political observers in the state note that Wilson has taken some moderate stances. Meanwhile, Staggs has earned the endorsement from youth conservative group Turning Point Action. Utah Republicans rejected Becky Edwards, a moderate Republican and Trump critic, earlier this month in the special election primary for red-leaning UT-02. Edwards’ campaign did not respond to a message on Wednesday asking if she’s thinking about a Senate run. But when asked if she was thinking about running for another office before Romney’s announcement, she previously told POLITICO that her “plan is to stay engaged with our supporters and people around the state and country who feel similarly and really aligned with the same principles and desires.”