Mitt Romney is heading into a Tuesday debate against Utah state lawmaker Mike Kennedy, who forced the former presidential contender and sometime critic of President Donald Trump into a primary in the race for Senate. Romneyin Utah, where Mr. Trump's brash style doesn't always go over well. But Kennedy, a conservative doctor and lawyer, made it a contest when he won the favor of hard-right-leaning state GOP stalwarts.
The two are vying to win a June 26 Republican primary in the race to
Romney has been traveling the state, saying his high political profile would give Utah outsize clout in Washington. He's said he agrees with the president on border security and other issues and accepted his endorsement, though some tensions linger.
Kennedy, meanwhile, says he's a homegrown, conservative alternative to Romney, who moved to the state after his failed 2012 presidential run. While Kennedy is an attractive candidate for anti-Romney Trump supporters, he'll have to gain support from a wider slice of the electorate to make his mark.
Romney is a beloved adopted son in Utah, where he's known for his role in turning around the 2002 Winter Olympics and becoming the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major political party.
The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Jenny Wilson. But GOP candidates have a big upper hand in conservative Utah.
Kennedy has served as a representative in Utah's Legislature since 2013. He got attention this year for heading up a commission to improve school safety in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. He's said his biggest priority is reducing the national debt.