Former Massachusetts governor and failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney defeated his primary challenger Tuesday evening in a landslide, setting him up for an all-but-assured victory in Utah’s general November midterm election.
Romney received over 72 percent of the vote against GOP Rep. Mike Kennedy, a physician who has resided in Utah since 2013. The final vote was called with over 89 percent of precincts reporting as of 11:43 p.m. Tuesday, with Romney receiving 72.9 percent of the vote compared to Kennedy’s 27.1 percent.
Democratic candidate Jenny Wilson won the Democratic nomination in late April.
Both Republican candidates were vying to replace Sen. Orrin Hatch — the longest-serving Republican senator in the history of the upper chamber. Hatch hat-tipped his retirement with the statement that he would fully endorse Romney if he decided to throw his name into the race. (RELATED: Hatch Announces His Retirement)
Romney out-fundraised the field by a large margin. The former governor raked in over $3.6 million in donations and had nearly $2 million on hand heading into Tuesday’s vote. The next highest fundraising candidate was Wilson, who brought in just over $540,000. Kennedy amassed roughly $486,000.
The election wasn’t necessarily on lock, despite holding a steady advantage in the polls, having a much larger campaign purse and Hatch’s endorsement. What seemed like an easy road to success for Romney was clouded after the former governor lost to Kennedy in two rounds of voting at the Utah Republican Convention in April.
Both candidates are Mormons, which is almost necessary in the state considered to be the heart of the Mormon faith. While Kennedy is a Mormon, Romney is considered something of a legend within the Utah Mormon community, which likely gave him a boon with voters.
Romney’s 2012 president run also raised his name recognition significantly within the state.
The former governor received criticism from his opponent that he is a “carpet-bagger,” meaning he quickly moved to the state only so that he could run for Senate. Kennedy also hit Romney for his anti-Trump rhetoric, which Romney largely dodged, claiming the president’s policies have been successful beyond what he originally predicted.
Utah has not elected a Democratic senator since 1977, electing a solid streak of Republican senators, like Hatch and Mike Lee.
Utah is an interesting state when it comes to Republican politics. On the one hand, it has arguably the most establishment Republican senator next to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with Hatch and its other senator is, like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a notable anti-establishment Republican.
Romney currently leads Wilson with around a 40 percentage point advantage.
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