(AP) — Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday that he will not run for reelection in 2024, creating a wide-open contest in a state that heavily favors Republicans and is expected to attract a crowded field.
Romney, a former presidential candidate and governor of Massachusetts, made the announcement in a video statement. The 76-year-old said the country is ready for new leadership.
“Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders,” he said. “They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in.”
Romney easily won the election in reliably GOP Utah in 2018 but was expected to face more resistance from his own party after he emerged as one of the most visible members to break with former President Donald Trump, who is still the party’s de-facto leader.
Romney in 2020 became the first senator in U.S. history to vote to convict a president from their 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.
Trump was acquitted by the Senate both times.
Romney was booed by a gathering of the Utah Republican Party’s most active members months after his vote at the second impeachment trial, and a measure to censure him narrowly failed. Members of the party even flung the term “Mitt Romney Republican” at their opponents on the campaign trail in 2022 midterm elections.
Still, Romney has been seen as broadly popular in Utah, which has long harbored a band of the party that’s favored civil conservatism and resisted Trump’s brash and norm-busting style of politics.
The state is home to the anti-Trump Lincoln Project; the anti-Trump Republican Evan McMullin, who launched a longshot 2016 presidential campaign; and GOP Gov. Spencer Cox, who has been critical of Trump and is also up for reelection in 2024.
More than a majority of the state’s population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The faith arrived in the western state with pioneers fleeing religious persecution and spread globally with the religion’s missionaries, a legacy that’s left the church’s conservative members embracing immigrants and refugees.