Romney Opts Out of Senate Reelection Bid in 2024

September 13, 2023 by Dan McCue
Romney Opts Out of Senate Reelection Bid in 2024
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

WASHINGTON — Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection to another term in the Senate in 2024, saying it’s time “for a new generation of leaders” to “shape the world they will be living in.”

Romney, a former presidential candidate and governor of Massachusetts, revealed his decision in a video statement posted to X Wednesday afternoon.

He began it by citing his age. Now 76, Romney said, “At the end of another term, I’d be in my mid-80s.”

He then moved on to what he called the nation’s “critical challenges,” naming “mounting national debt, climate change and the ambitious authoritarians of Russia and China,” going on to suggest that neither President Joe Biden, who is now 80, nor former President Donald Trump, now 77, “are leading their party to confront those issues.”

When it comes to the nation’s deficit and mounting debt, Romney said, “Both men refuse to address entitlements, even though they know that this represents two thirds of federal spending. Donald Trump calls global warming a hoax.”

Despite Biden’s championing the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which allocated $783 billion to energy and climate change initiatives — the largest such investment in U.S. history — Romney faulted the president for offering “feel-good solutions that make no difference to the global climate.”

“On China, President Biden under-invests in the military and President Trump under-invests in our alliances,” Romney said, again faulting both men for, in his opinion, allowing “political motivations to … impede the solutions that these challenges demand.” 

“The next generation of leaders must take America to the next stage of global leadership,” he added. 

Romney, who began his political career as an independent, twice ran for the Republican nomination for president.

In 2008, he won 11 primaries and caucuses, but ultimately lost his bid for the nomination to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Romney endorsed McCain for president a week later and was said to be on the short list for vice president before McCain opted for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

McCain was later trounced by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

Romney ran again in 2012 and secured the Republican nomination for president, only to lose to Obama that November.

Romney was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, handily defeating his Democratic challenger, Jenny Wilson, 62.65% to 30.9% in a race to succeed the retiring Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.

While Romney has been outspoken on a number of issues during his tenure in the Senate, he will likely best be remembered as one of the most visible members to break with former President Donald Trump.

In 2020, Romney became the first senator in U.S. history to vote to convict a president from his own party in an impeachment trial. 

Romney was the only Republican to vote against Trump in his first impeachment and one of seven to vote to convict him in the second.

In a written statement after the second vote, Romney said, “President Trump attempted to corrupt the election by pressuring the secretary of state of Georgia to falsify the election results in his state. President Trump incited the insurrection against Congress by using the power of his office to summon his supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 and urging them to march on the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes. 

“He did this despite the obvious and well-known threats of violence that day. President Trump also violated his oath of office by failing to protect the Capitol, the vice president, and others in the Capitol. Each and every one of these conclusions compels me to support conviction,” he said.

Trump was acquitted by the Senate both times.

Fallout from the vote included Romney’s being formally censured by various Republican organizations outside of Utah; in comparison, Republicans in his own state mostly stood by him.

Though he was booed at a gathering of the Utah Republican Party immediately after the second impeachment trial, a measure to censure him failed. 

In a statement released after Romney’s announcement, Steve Daines, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said, “I join my Republican colleagues in expressing gratitude to Sen. Romney for his years of service to our country and the state of Utah. We are going to nominate a candidate who will keep Utah red in 2024.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, also a Republican, was among the first politicians in the senator’s home state to respond to the news.

In a statement on X he said Romney “has served with distinction at the highest levels of government and we’re incredibly grateful for his commitment to this country. Our state and our nation have benefited from his principled leadership and patriotism.”

Perhaps the warmest response of all came from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said that while the chamber “is known to attract bright and proven public servants … we rarely get to welcome new senators already as accomplished and well-regarded as Mitt Romney. 

“The Senate has been fortunate to call our friend from Utah a colleague these past four-and-a-half years, and I am sorry to learn that he will depart our ranks at the end of next year,” McConnell said.

“The junior senator for Utah has made remarkably efficient use of his brief tenure in the Senate to deliver on important promises to people he represents — from sensible management of America’s public lands to reduced reliance on China for critical supply chains,” he continued.

“Sen. Romney’s experience as an executive made him an impactful presence from day one. His experience as a campaigner made him a dogged spokesman for worthy causes. And his deep faith and integrity have earned the admiration of each of his colleagues,” McConnell said.

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, an open U.S. Senate seat in Utah is likely to “set off a stampede of candidates” hoping to replace Romney.

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and Riverton, Utah, Mayor Trent Staggs have already launched their campaigns, the newspaper said, adding that others possibly considering a bid could include Attorney General Sean Reyes, former Utah GOP Chair Thomas Wright and state Sen. Mike Kennedy.

The Tribune also noted that with his announcement, Romney becomes only the second U.S. senator from Utah to serve only one term, joining Democrat Abe Murdock, who lost his reelection bid in 1946.

“While I’m not running for reelection, I’m not retiring from the fight,” Romney said in closing to his constituents on his video. “I’ll be your United States senator until January of 2025. I will keep working on these and other issues, and I’ll advance our state’s numerous priorities. I look forward to working with you and with folks across our state and nation in that endeavor.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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