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Utah Senate: Trump loyalists, climate-minded lawmakers enter race to replace Romney

Utah Senate: Trump loyalists, climate-minded lawmakers enter race to replace Romney
Utah Senate: Trump loyalists, climate-minded lawmakers enter race to replace Romney


OREM, Utah (AP) As he led a crowd of picnicking families in YMCA dancing, Trent Staggs happily waved a Utah flag for Trump at a recent campaign rally, a not-so reminder subtle to voters that he is supported by the former. president in the race to replace outgoing U.S. Senator Mitt Romney.

The endorsement propelled Staggs, who was little known outside the Salt Lake City suburbs he runs, to victory at the state Republican convention in April, where delegates lean far right. But his credentials within Donald Trump's Make America Great Again movement may not be enough to win Tuesday's primaries, when Utah's more discreet Republican electorate will have its say.

The election will determine whether the state wants another moderate conservative like Romney's U.S. Rep. John Curtis is considered either the front-runner in the race or a far-right candidate more willing to align with Trump. The vote could have larger implications for how Utah fits into the evolving dynamics of the national Republican Party, which the former president largely reshaped in his image.

We have someone in John Curtis who would just be an extension of Mitt Romney, Staggs said at the rally in a park just north of Provo, the city where Curtis once served as mayor. I don't want another senator with a disharmonious relationship with President Trump.

Curtis is currently the longest-serving member of the House delegation for Utah, a rare Republican stronghold that has half-heartedly embraced Trump, whose brash style and comments about refugees and immigrants do not sit well with many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. About half of the state's 3.4 million residents belong to the faith widely known as the Mormon Church.

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Despite his congressional defeat, Curtis qualified for the primary ballot using a signature-gathering method created years ago as a workaround for moderate candidates to ensure their prospects were not doomed by staunch conservatives who regularly attend conventions.

Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Policy Institute, said Curtis is in a very good position. The Republican winner of the primary is widely favored to win in November over Democratic candidate Caroline Gleich in a state that has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970.

Even as Trump's influence has grown in the state, his supporters could be divided between Staggs and two other candidates who say they support Trump's agenda, former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and businessman Jason Walton. Wilson was considered a strong candidate to win at the convention, but his loss to Staggs relegated him far from the primary.

Curtis seeks to forge his own brand of conservatism in Utah's post-Romney political era, with an emphasis on bringing Republicans to the table on issues related to climate change. Staggs claims that Curtis is a Democrat posing as a Republican. But with a voting record that matches Trump's policy positions almost perfectly, Curtis says he's more conservative than you might think.

The 64-year-old MP takes the concept of election campaigning more literally than anyone. He organized a series of hikes with constituents to discuss and learn about the environment while being in nature.

As founder of the conservative Climate Caucus on Capitol Hill, he dedicated himself to teaching his fellow Republicans about the consequences of climate change, pushing back against party leaders such as Trump who falsely claimed it was a hoax and downplayed the effects of warming temperatures. caused by fossil fuel emissions. The caucus takes a market-based approach to climate issues, opposing Democratic policies with proposals that Curtis says aim to reduce emissions without compromising American jobs and economic principles.

In a state where outdoor recreation is central to thousands of lives and access to water and clean air are important to many, Curtis sees the environment as a winning issue.

Still, Curtis has received broad support in previous elections, even in parts of his district that are home to the state's coal, oil and gas hubs. He tried to strike a balance, prioritizing the preservation of these industries by welcoming a plan to extend the operational life of his district's major coal plants and urging lawmakers not to exclude fossil fuels. as part of a clean and affordable energy future. The United States, he argues, can meet its emissions reduction goals while continuing to use natural gas, the combustion of which emits less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels.

I think the reason they're so supportive of me and I'm always talking about climate is because I'm the first person who really expressed that they were part of the solution, not the problem, Curtis said in an interview.

For Sara Moore, a 34-year-old snowboard instructor who identifies as an independent Republican but registered to vote in the primary, Curtis' focus on climate change and jobs related to energy production is a refreshing balance.

I am a seasonal worker. We need a climate that can handle snow, the Salt Lake City voter said. But I also recognize how our state’s economy and many livelihoods depend on the oil and gas industries.

Staggs, the 50-year-old mayor of Riverton, a suburb south of Salt Lake City, has favored his support with the Oil & Gas Workers Association, and he told The Associated Press he would prioritize energy domination rather than emissions reduction. Staggs was the first to enter the race, even before Romney announced he was not seeking re-election.

Sally Hemingway, 68, of Riverton, a Staggs supporter, said he was a caring, approachable and productive mayor. She admires that he was the first to challenge Romney.

It may be a long shot, I think he knows that, but his campaign has always been about disrupting the status quo since he challenged Mitt Romney, she said. And I think he did.

Jacob Mathews, 25, a student and construction worker, and his wife, Maya Mathews, 24, a substitute teacher, were undecided but said they would ultimately vote for the candidate who seems most approachable, supports working families like theirs and values ​​the United States. Constitution. Whether a candidate is endorsed by Trump doesn't really matter to us, the couple agreed.

They stopped at their community park in Orem to hear Staggs and other convention picks who sang in celebration of Trump's birthday. Both left wishing the candidates would talk more about their policy goals and less about the former president.

I want to know what you're going to do for Utah, Jacob Mathews said. You, not anyone else.




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