Mitt Romney wins GOP primary in Utah Senate race Utah

Mitt Romney wins GOP primary in Utah Senate race Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mitt Romney handily won the Republican primary for a Utah Senate seat Tuesday after toning down his criticism of Donald Trump as he looks to re-start his political career.

The former presidential candidate was the heavy favorite to win the primary in the race to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch in Utah, where he’s a beloved adopted son.

But Romney was forced into a primary after a narrow loss to state lawmaker Mike Kennedy in front of a right-leaning group of core GOP party members at the state convention in April.

During the campaign, Kennedy painted his political-heavyweight opponent as an out-of-towner who couldn’t get along with Trump. He didn’t immediately concede the race Tuesday.

Romney blasted Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud,” during the 2016 presidential campaign, but the two men have largely buried the hatchet.

Romney has accepted the president’s endorsement and predicted he’ll win another term in 2020, though he’s also said he’ll speak out on significant matters he considers racist, sexist or anti-immigrant.

At a festive primary election night party, dozens of Romney supporters gathered near an inflatable bouncy castle, munching on snow cones and hot dogs as country music and classic rock played from speakers.

Romney spoke surrounded by his wife, Ann, and some of their children and grandchildren at sunset on a podium set in front of picturesque mountains.

He promised to “make sure that the example I set as a leader is consistent with the values of our state and the great founding values of the United States of America” in Washington.

He now faces Democratic Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, though GOP candidates have a big upper hand in the conservative state.