Former 2012 Republican presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to announce a bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by longtime Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who announced his retirement on Tuesday.
While Romney was often praised for supporting LGBTQ rights as governor of Massachusetts, he has always been a vehement opponent of same-sex marriage, pushing to ban the practice during his time as governor and campaigning on his opposition to it in both 2008 and 2012.
He even signed a pledge created by the National Organization for Marriage vowing to appoint judges opposed to same-sex marriage to the federal judiciary and to push for passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Romney was noncommittal on a federal law that would protect LGBTQ workers from workplace discrimination. But he did oppose an Arizona bill in 2014 that would have granted religious exemptions to business owners that would allow them to actively discriminate against LGBTQ individuals.
According to The New York Times, advisers close to Romney expect him to make an official announcement in the coming weeks. Romney, who has set himself up as the Republican voice of reason to some of President Trump’s most populist impulses, would immediately become a favorite for the seat once he makes an announcement.
“He’d be a very difficult candidate to beat in Utah,” former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt told the Times about the prospect of a Romney Senate candidacy.
In what has been interpreted as a signal to would-be political supporters, Romney updated his Twitter profile to change his location from Massachusetts to Holladay, Utah.
Perhaps the biggest effect of a Romney Senate candidacy would be its effect on President Trump, as Romney has been one of the few Republicans to openly criticize the president. For instance, after Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore came under scrutiny for alleged past actions seeking intimate relationships with teenage girls, Romney suggested that Republicans should pull their support from Moore, saying a Senate seat wasn’t worth compromising the party’s values.
Romney also criticized Trump for equivocating statements he made following skirmishes between white supremacists and counter-protesters that resulted in deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va. this summer.
“Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn” Romney wrote on his Facebook page. “His apologists strain to explain that he didn’t mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality.”
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