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Utah GOP Senate hopeful charts post-Romney brand of conservatism

He doesn’t want to be known as the replacement of retiring Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). The same goes for being the conservative “climate guy.” Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), fresh off winning a competitive GOP primary for Utah’s open Senate seat, warns Beehive State voters they may be “disappointed” if they expect him to be a […]

He doesn’t want to be known as the replacement of retiring Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). The same goes for being the conservative “climate guy.”

Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), fresh off winning a competitive GOP primary for Utah’s open Senate seat, warns Beehive State voters they may be “disappointed” if they expect him to be a mold of his predecessor or Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

“The reality of it is, while I have great respect for both Sen. Romney and Sen. Lee, I’m just different than both of them,” Curtis told the Washington Examiner in an interview.


As Senate Republicans seek to retake the chamber and deepen its bench, his future colleagues, at least for now, may be left wondering if he’ll bolster a dwindling centrist faction crucial to striking deals with Democrats or the hard-line conservative wing that has seen its ranks grow in recent elections.

The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. And his presence, should he clench the general election this November in the reliably red state, could affect day-to-day policy debates and the heated contest to find the next Senate Republican leader.

“The way to know me is to look at my last seven years, and that has been a hallmark for me, finding what I would call that cross-section of values,” Curtis said.

Curtis may come across to some as a Romney reserve waiting in the wings. A pragmatic conservative who founded the House Conservative Climate Caucus, he’s had his fair share of intraparty conflict and is no stranger to criticizing former President Donald Trump. Curtis did, after all, garner nearly 50% in a competitive three-way primary that included Trump-backed Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs.

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But Curtis has already charted a lane of his own, even if he does foreshadow that his Senate voting record will “be more like Mike Lee’s, particularly fiscally.”

He falls nearly smack dab in the middle of Romney and Lee on the Conservative Political Action Conference’s legislative analysis scorecard. Curtis clocks in with a conservative score of 79%, compared to Romney’s 62% and Lee’s 99%.

“Utah voters responded to my lane,” Curtis said. “I think there’s a false narrative that you’re either all in or all out on President Trump. The reality of it is … I enjoyed supporting him, but that doesn’t mean he has an unconditional vote from me.”

Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) hikes along the Provo Canyon Trail during a hike with constituents on May 11, 2024, in Orem, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Curtis declined to wade too deep into the race to replace Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is stepping down as the longest-serving Senate party leader next year but will remain in the chamber. It’s currently a three-way contest between two McConnell allies, Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) and former Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), and conservative long-shot Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL).

But after witnessing firsthand the “dysfunction” with House Republicans this Congress, Curtis emphasized party unity must be the focus for any successor.

“I am weighing who can do the task at hand. And for me, that’s primarily who can unify the different Republican voices into one voice,” he said.

Curtis’s triumph at the ballot box also laid bare that there remains a path forward for those in the party who feel Republicans should do more to combat climate change.

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“I can’t help but talk about this,” Curtis said.

Curtis, with the support of dozens of fellow House Republicans, founded the Conservative Climate Caucus in 2021 with the goal of reaching younger generations on an issue of growing political influence. He vowed, in one form or another, to bring with him to the Senate the group’s mission of embracing conservative policies that slow rising global temperatures.

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“One of the things that has been a journey for me myself is finding a place to land. And I think what I’ve been able to do is define a very comfortable place for Republicans to land on climate that doesn’t betray their conservative values but it also reduces emissions and acknowledges that reducing emissions is important,” Curtis said.

“That will be a continued emphasis. I have no doubt,” he added. “I’m just not quite sure the form it takes.”

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