Trent Staggs, the mayor of Riverton, Utah, near Salt Lake City, sat down with TheBlaze on Thursday to make his case to replace Sen. Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate race in the state of Utah in the 2024 election.
According to Staggs, Romney has failed to deliver on many of the promises he made to voters in Utah when he ran for the Senate in 2018, especially regarding illegal immigration, a balanced budget, and confirming conservative judges to the federal bench. Now, five years into his first term, Romney’s “record … is fighting against those things,” Staggs said, noting in a campaign ad that Romney even voted to confirm far-left nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Staggs claimed that, unlike Romney, he would vote like “a bold conservative … another Mike Lee, if you will,” referring to Utah’s senior senator, Mike Lee (R) and his reputation for fiscal conservatism. Throughout the conversation with TheBlaze, Staggs frequently referenced his experience managing money and budgets in business and in his role as mayor. He pledged, if elected, to use that experience at the federal level.
“We have a spending problem, a serious spending problem,” Staggs said. “I have to pass my household budget. I have had to balance my budget in this city that I’ve been running for the past 10 years. … Your federal government does not do that.”
He argued that in recent years, Congress has “abdicated” its responsibility to get spending under control. “I’m not going to bring a hatchet, I’m gonna bring a chainsaw to the regulatory state [and] to the budget,” he joked.
Staggs also stated that he is staunchly pro-life and supports other culture war issues. For example, he said that as mayor, he has worked to prevent “inappropriate materials in schools” as well as ESG from taking root in Riverton.
Though Staggs brings a lot of local political experience to the race, he does not quite have the campaign coffers that an incumbent has. According to reports, Sen. Romney has $1.6 million on hand for a re-election bid, and another potential Republican challenger, Utah Speaker Brad Wilson, has also raised more than $2 million, mostly of his own money.
When asked how he will compete against such deep campaign war chests, Staggs, who has currently raised just over $200,000, said he’s only just gotten started. “We announced in late May,” Staggs noted, “[so we’ve] had about four weeks” to fundraise. He added that his campaign has “already doubled what we’ve already brought in or reported.”
“So people are hearing,” he said, “and they’re getting the word out.”
And it does seem that Staggs’ campaign is making waves. He has already received a coveted endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police, which he estimated represents at least 5,000 Utahns. He also claimed to have received an endorsement from Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk and BlazeTV’s own Mark Levin.
His campaign has also already received contributions from folks in at least 45 different states, Staggs said. By contrast, he said, Romney and Wilson are “very rich,” “establishment” Republicans who can afford to finance a large portion of their own campaigns. For that reason, Staggs implied that they are “out of touch” with regular voters from around the country and back home in Utah, a traditionally red state where the median household income is less than $80,000 a year.
As he has done repeatedly since announcing his candidacy, Staggs expressed to TheBlaze his support for Trump’s overall agenda and claimed that Utahns want stronger conservative voices, like the former president, representing them in Washington. “We need somebody who’s going to stand up is going to push back” against Biden and the Democrats, Staggs said, someone who will “create that smaller government, fight for families every day, and then also to be able to improve the economy.”
Staggs said that he has demonstrated that he is the man for the job. Not only does he have support from various mayors and city councilmembers from across Utah, he said, but his local work as mayor brings him in regular contact with his constituents, indicating that he can be a voice of the people at the federal level.
“As a mayor, you’re on the front lines. … I can’t go to the grocery store here without talking to people. … So, there’s this level of closeness with the constituency and accountability that, sadly, I think is lacking at the federal level,” Staggs explained. “And we need people that understand federalism, that understand local governance. And we’ll go back to D.C. and fight to try to restore that balance that our founders envisioned.”
The Utah primary will be held on March 5, 2024, aka Super Tuesday.
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